So much of what I have read this week seems to apply, in one way or another, to the tragedies we have all seen play out in the daily news. Listen to these words from Psalm 46, “God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will we not fear though the earth be moved and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof rage and swell and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same.” The picture the psalmist portrays of mountains shaking at a tempest, of hills being carried into the sea, and of waters raging and swelling, is not just word-pictures to our brothers and sisters here in America. To those who have seen their lives, and the lives of their family and friends, devastated by storms and blizzards, the words of the psalmist describe their present-day reality. And these are just the natural disasters; what about the man-made ones – the political turmoil and the sectarian violence? And then there is the uncertainty about where our own leaders will take us, or how unstable governments in other countries may affect our future. Do the words of Psalm 46 offer any comfort to those of us whose present realities are in tatters or to those whose hopes and dreams seem on the brink of vanishing? In times of trouble and uncertainty, do we open our Bibles and seek comfort and direction in words like those we read in Psalm 46? Now a cynic might answer my question this way, “Come on Father Tracy, get real. You got to know that most recent surveys show that only 1 in 5 Americans even read a Bible on a regular basis. Psalm 46, Saint Paul, forget about it!” This answer dodges the real question. Why? because the real question is directed at believers and not at non-believers. The real question is whether we Christians believe we live in the hands of a loving and benevolent God when we see all the destruction and evil that seems to hold sway in the world. Where was God when floods, wildfires, blizzards, and political turmoil, threatened or destroyed our homes, our businesses, and our lives? Do I dare talk about a God, and speak of his love and benevolence, without making a mockery of those who have suffered so greatly? How do our Christian beliefs help us to understand a loving and benevolent God who allows us to live in such a dangerous and evil world? These are questions mankind has asked for a thousand years, and they are as pertinent today as they were a thousand years ago. Does the Bible give us any help? any answers? to our questions? What was the first incident in the Bible of a world-wide disaster? – it was the great Flood, of course. You remember the story, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that the thoughts of his heart was only of evil.” And then, God destroyed all he had created, both man and beast in a great Flood. Our religious leaders will often tell us that modern disasters happen for the same reasons as biblical disasters – and that is to punish the wicked. But they often forget to tell us two important considerations: first, that God’s purpose, even in the Flood, was not to destroy people, but to destroy wickedness, and second, that, even in the greatest disaster, God’s purpose is to save a Faithful Remnantto carry his message forth and be his witness in the world. Noah and his family were the first of God’s Faithful Remnant, and today’s Christians are next, if we keep the faith in current times of trouble and uncertainty. Then, there is another incident in the Bible, 1 Kings 19:1-9, that bears on the questions we ask in the face of the dangers we face every day. Elijah had a vision which was brought on because the Israelites lapsed into sin by forsaking their covenant with God. In his vision, Elijah stood on a mountain top and experienced strong winds, broken rocks, earthquakes, and fire; but God was not any of these – God was in that “still small voice” Elijah could hear above the roar and disruption all around him. What Elijah heard is the voice we also can hear. It is the voice that will safely lead us both in this world and into the next. We are reminded of this in the 23rdPsalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The Bible, with stories like Noah and the Flood, and like Elijah and his vision, give us some help in our quest to understand evil in a world created by a loving and a benevolent God. However, the bottom line is that our minds can frame the questions, but we are not equipped to understand the answers. God has not given us the divine insight to understand how, what we see as tragedy, fits into his plans for his world. What God has given us is the free will to accept his gift of faith. That faith allows us to see tragedy in the world and have faith that God is in control – and not just in control but directing events to his ultimate end which is the redemption of mankind. Yes, we live in perilous times and tragedy may be just around the corner but even in tragedy, our God made promises to us we can count upon. We are given the promise that if we suffer for our God in this world, we will share his glory in the next. God’s gift of faith comes with his promise to be with us, and to comfort us, when the troubles of the world are raging around us, and to guide us to higher ground on his Holy Mountain. Amen.