In my first appointment after seminary I had the privilege of serving as Bill Strickland’s associate pastor. Much of what I learned about ministry I learned from watching him and it has served me well. He has been a mentor in my life and today I count it a privilege to call him my friend. His life in “retirement” has moved from the pulpit to the farm, where almost daily he post reflections about faith, ministry, and life. They speak deeply to me and the one he posted yesterday I wanted to share with you. I had planned to write something on the same subject in the aftermath of the Texas church shootings, but as always he said it so well I though you should just hear it from him.
“We live in a time of unthinkable atrocities. When I was growing up, no one could have imagined the horrible things we have witnessed. No part of the country has been spared. Big cities and small towns, elementary schools and churches, darkened movie theatres and open air concerts have all been places where the unsuspecting innocents became the victims of someone who simply wanted to kill. In the aftermath there are always a thousand questions asked. Questions are asked about how such a thing might have been avoided. Questions are asked about security. And one questions which often seems to be without any real answer is the question of motive.
Why would anyone do the unthinkable things we have seen visited upon our nation and our world? We have heard the answers of those who do the investigative work and we have heard the speculation of the media as it seeks to be the first with the answers. Back in the 16th century a reformer named Martin Luther penned a hymn which points us to an answer that is both unthinkable and unacceptable to the culture of our day. In my church upbringing any song with four verses was always sung with the third verse being left out. But, the third verse of that great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” has some words worth considering as we search for the “why” of some of what we have seen in recent days.
“And though this world , with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.” For those only satisfied with complicated answers that point to a sophisticated system of psychology, it sounds much to simple to simply say that evil is lose in the world. Both Luther’s hymn and Word of God point us to a world view where evil is present in all of its horrible expressions and that people like you and me can be so gripped and consumed by that evil that they do unthinkable things to those around them.” From Bill Strickland, Journey Notes November 7th, 2017