Thoughts of Stan & Marsha

Why?  That’s the question we all ask immediately after a tragedy like this strikes.  We want to know why someone would do something like this.  What was going on in their lives, what was going on in their heads that would bring someone to a desolate and desperate place as this?  We grope around in the darkness looking for answers – almost with the unspoken hope that with understanding will come relief – and with the relief will come closure and peace.

And yet no matter how long we search, the darkness gives us no answers.  Some of us may have a few clues as to what happened – bits and pieces that Stan and Marsha had shared with us over the past weeks and months.  But even all of those little tidbits don’t add up to the tragedy that happened last Tuesday night. 

And you know, I am convinced that even if we had all the pieces…if we could find all the answers we were looking for, that we still wouldn’t understand the tragedy before us.  Even if we knew exactly what Stan was thinking at that moment, we would certainly come to a different conclusion than he did.  We would find a different way out – a different solution.  Even the answers would lead to more unrest and confusion. 

And so the question before us is how do we deal with such a tragedy – an event that has so confused and disturbed us?  Well the truth is that we are not alone in our search for answers.  Unfortunately there have been tragedies like this for centuries – and even similar tragedies in Scripture.  The one that particularly comes to mind is the story of Job.  Now although Job didn’t die in his story, those around him died.  His children died and Job himself was the subject of suffering and pain – but what makes the story all the more striking is that just like us he sought answers.  Job didn’t understand why things happened as they did.  Why his children had to die…why he was left to suffer and grieve and mourn; and so Job did the only this he could do, he demanded that God give an account on why there was so much suffering and pain. 

Now, it is interesting that as you read the book of Job, that God never gave Job the answers that he sought – but what God did do was re-assert His sovereignty.  God assured Job that even in the midst of unbearable pain and suffering – that He remains in control at all times.  He created the earth…He rules it, He sustains it and He governs it.  And then, at the very end of the book, Job finds comfort in the sovereignty of God.  Job says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.”  Job took comfort in the power and control of his Heavenly Father, much like a scared child would take comfort in the presence of their earthly father.

But what is even more, is that in the midst of suffering, Job finds comfort in the salvation of God.  It is from the middle of the book that Job gives us the words of our great Easter hymn, the same hymn of victory that we will sing at the close of tonight.  Job says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  Job took comfort in knowing that God would resurrect him.  God will save him.  God will comfort him.

And where Job found comfort and peace in the midst of his tragedy is the same place that you and I can find peace today.  Scripture reassures us over and over again that God is and remains in control at all times.  And in fact, that is the main theme of the last book of the Bible – Revelation.  That even as the early Christians were being persecuted, that God remains in control no matter what goes on around us.  And I’ll admit that this is not always easy for us to see or believe – but it is true.  Our Heavenly Father has no equal – and although, in His divine wisdom, He continues to allow these types of tragedies to happen – He remains in control.  And we have His promise that He will work all of these events together for our eternal good and for His glory!!

But you and I, we have more information and comfort than Job ever did – because although Job had the hope of the victory over death, we have the sure and certain words of Scripture as they tell us of the death and resurrection of God’s only Son.  God’s answer to our suffering is always Christ.  And the reason Jesus is the answer is because although we know that God is and remains in control, there are those who believe that our Heavenly Father is a mean and vindictive creator.  That He plays with His creatures like they are puppets or ants.  That is how many of the Romans and Greeks felt about their gods.  That we has humans were little more than their toys or play things for their amusement.  But in Jesus we have a totally different answer…We have the assurance of God’s love – that He would sacrifice His one and only Son for you and me.  And because of Him we are forgiven.  We now have hope and peace through the love of Jesus Christ.

That is exactly what St. Paul tells us in the 8th chapter of Romans.  St. Paul writes, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  That is where we turn to find comfort and peace in times of tragedy – that not only is God in control…but that we have the assurance of His love through Jesus Christ. 

Which brings us back to Stan and Marsha. You see, because as horrible as this tragedy was, we can also take comfort in knowing, not only did God love them both very much, but that through Baptism God saved and redeemed each one of them.  That through Holy Baptism they were both clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all of their sins – and it was not just a few of their sins…and it was not just the minor sins – but all of their sins were covered and forgiven.  Remember, even from the cross, Jesus prayed “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Even the worst of sins can and are forgiven in Christ; and so we have every reason and every confidence to believe that all the sins of Stan and Marsha – beloved and baptized children of God – are covered by our Lord’s blood.  And so through faith we have the assurance that at the resurrection on the last day – that we will see our dear brother and sister in Christ once again – the two of them standing among the redeemed singing praises to their Savior.

It has been a very hard week for our church.  It has been a hard week for anyone who knew Stan and Marsha.  It has been a hard week for the officers involved in the tragedy.  It has been a very hard week for me too.  Tragedies like this leave a hole and try as we might to understand and fill that hole with answers – the truth is that the answers just don’t come.  We might have ideas or glimpses into why Stan did what he did – but none of us knew the final state of Stan’s mind or the extent of the trouble and pain that he was facing.  And so we are left with the only answers we have – and in truth the only answers that really matter.  God is in control.  He loves us all very dearly and He shows that through His Son Jesus Christ; and that because of our Lord’s death and resurrection – our sins are forgiven, death is forever defeated and we can look forward to an eternity with our Savior and with all those who have died in the faith.  Amen.

Your Fellow Servant in Christ,

Pastor Dan Kletke

If you would like to speak with me regarding making sense of this tragedy or any other matter weighing on your heart, please do not hesitate to contact me via phone or email.