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The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson

The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson is the senior pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Minneapolis, MN.

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Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Minneapolis, MN


Is Our Hope Lost?

January 19, 2010

Both my husband and I are writing blogs this week about seminary student Ben Larson, the son of some of our closest friends.  He was killed in the earthquake while teaching at the Pastors and Lay Leaders Theological Conference in Haiti.  His mother, a pastor and former bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), says about her son:  "Ben was gentle, in love with Christ, in love with people,  in love with life" and his father, a pastor in the ELCA says about him, "If you want to know Ben, listen to his music." 

I am listening to his music as I write this blog.  "There is suffering in the world, it's filled with pain..... is our hope lost?"  he sings. "The world can be an evil place, but it is bound to get better.  Don't worry, babe, it'll be alright."

Ben had a wonderful idealism that drove him. His faith, his love of Christ, and belief that if God could do the impossible and raise Jesus from the dead, anything was possible.  He was in Haiti believing he could make a difference there.  Ben's hope was not lost.  Ben's hope was placed solidly in the covenant Christ made with him in his baptism, and that light of Christ shone brightly in all he did.  When the earthquake struck and they were racing to leave the building the floor broke open between them, and the roof caved in on Ben.  His wife, desperate to get him out,  through the rubble heard him singing, and upon his words, "God's peace to us we pray," there was silence.  He died as he lived, in the hope of our risen Christ and in that peace, that passes all human understanding.

And the family?  Is their hope lost? 

In the midst of the tears that will last a life time, in the midst of lives shattered with grief, we held hands at meal time and all sang together the dinner prayer "Johnny Appleseed", "Oh the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed.  The Lord is good to me.  Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Aaaaamen."  And we went to worship and we sang the hymns of faith, and listened to the Word and participated in the Lord's Supper.

Is there a "reason for everything that happens?"  Is the death of Ben and the death of so many in Haiti "God's will" for them in their lives? If it is, then that's not the God I worship.  God did not kill Jesus, the world did.  God's part was the new life.  God's part was the impossible - raising Jesus from the dead, bringing hope to a hopeless situation. This is God's answer to shattered lives: hope -  hope that comes from donations pouring in from throughout the world, generosity never seen before by the Red Cross - at a time when people are struggling in this economy; hope - that comes from countless people ready to go to Haiti to help rebuild that country; hope - that comes as people gather together to sing hymns and pray; hope - that comes in the gift of lasagna and brownies delivered at the door; hope - that comes with people gathered, crying with one another - sobbing together over the loss; hope that comes in the promise that in the midst of shattered lives God in Christ is doing a new thing. 

This is the God I worship: a God of hope, who did and does the impossible - brings new life and hope to shattered dreams and lives.


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