How do members of a Church prepare for a crazed gunman with an assault rifle to walk into their worship service and to kill 26 people?
How does a husband/wife prepare for the day when their spouse tells them that they “still love them, but they are no longer ‘in love with them’?” And, they are moving in with their new partner.
How does a parent prepare for the news that their son has died as the result of a hazing incident while pledging a fraternity?
When we hear the Gospel story of the wise virgins v. the foolish virgins [Matthew 25:1-13] — we hear the challenge to be vigilant and to be prepared.
There are those easy challenges —
make sure that money is set aside in savings for those rainy day emergencies — when the refrigerator needs to be replaced or there is an unexpected medical need;
stay a step ahead at work so that when an opening arises you are ready to apply;
see your doctor on a regular basis to make sure all things are in order;
keep your car maintenance up to date to prevent major problems later.
Yes, better to be prepared than unprepared. There comes a point when it is too late to prepare —- water is rising and you have no flood insurance —- too late.
But, how does one prepare for the unthinkable — the unimaginable?
How could the congregants of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas possibly be prepared for the worst mass shooting in a place of worship in US history?
How can one prepare for the news that their child has a rare form of cancer?
How can the wife of baseball-pitcher Roy Halladay really be prepared for the death of her husband — at age 40 — in a plane crash?
There are many things that happen in life that we can do our best to be prepared for — but our world will still be rocked. We understand that if anything can happen — then anything CAN happen. We prepare as well as we can —-knowing that there is NO WAY to be completely prepared.
To survive the unimaginable — the unthinkable — we are called to
1. Believe that God is good — and God does not cause bad things to happen. It was not God’s WILL that the crazed gunman would enter into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX and to take so many lives. God’s WILL was for only good to happen — for each of those killed to go home for lunch with their families.
God does not WILL that a child be hit by a car — he WILLS that a child be kept safe.
AND, bad things happen — evil people mess up the good God has willed. Illness creeps into the life of every family.
2. God is with us on our journey — and will lead us to a better day. God did not cause or will for a spouse to be unfaithful — that was NOT in God’s plan — but God IS HERE today to walk into the future. God will help us to create a new path.
3. Rely on the support of friends and family —- the relationships we have built through the years are an embodiment of God’s love and support for us. We need to let others help us — we are fragile — and we will be stronger one day — but today, we need to lean on those around us.
4. Remember, we do not deserve this — but, it is happening — there is no answer to the question of ‘WHY’ —
Through prayer, through worship, through human relationships we make ourselves strong. By celebrating the good and being grateful for our blessings — we help ourselves understand that everyday is not a good day and there are bad things going on in the world.
Death and resurrection are real —- part of everyday life — not just Easter.
Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, reflecting on the shooting in Sutherland Springs, proposes that we hold on to the Jewish expression, “from generation to generation.” Life endures forever—and all is about heaven. For me, his reflection means that we enjoy life here on earth and we work to make the world a better place —– but our hope is beyond us, our life is bigger than what we are doing.
This means —- there is no way to be totally prepared for the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the catastrophic. And, it is possible to be better prepared than unprepared. It is better to be “at 6 on the prepared scale than to be at 2.” Hopefully the 4 steps above will help us all to be better prepared than unprepared.
Let us not be arrogant or careless. Let us believe that with the help of God and the support of others we will survive anything that comes our way. We will be wise to understand that life is good —- and we will go forward in life — with preparation.