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BTK suspect's minister reacts in sermon

  • Published Monday, March 12, 2007, at 7:44 a.m.

The following is the sermon delivered Sunday morning by pastor Michael Clark of Christ Lutheran Church, where Dennis L. Rader was a congregation leader:

The events that have unfolded the past 48 hours have the power to destroy, to devastate us as a body of Christ or these events can bring us together and strengthen us as a faith community in a way that will never be the same.

These events have the power and energy to be a wedge that drives us apart, or they can be a force that will hold us together in these trying times.

"It makes no sense!" "What is it all about?" "What has just happened?" "I just don't understand?"

A sense of relief for some, a feeling of confusion for others! Where is the justice? Where is God? Why us, God? It can't be my son! It isn't my father! I just don't believe it! This is where many of us are in these troubled times. How can it be?

And there are many others who cry out "Finally!" It's over! What a relief! There is a god! Or: "Thank God!"

There is such a tension between what is going on and what is real. Our understandings are mixed. Our views are varied. Our minds are troubled. Our hearts are heavy. We turn to God in confusion.

We are in the midst of the Lenten season. We are in one of those dark valleys in our life journeys, both individually and as a body of Christ here at Christ Lutheran Church. We are in the midst of the Lenten season where we turn to the pain-filled, bled-on cross that held our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. We reflect on the pain and suffering our lord experienced and endured as he hung on a cross for each and every one of us.

I had my sermon for today prepared and comfortably tucked away for one final once over. Then on Friday afternoon of this past week a police officer came to the door of our church with papers in hand, and it changed everything. The name Dennis Rader was spoken softly but firmly. I was told Dennis had been arrested as a suspect in the BTK murders. I was told that many believed that Dennis Rader was very possibly the BTK murderer. I was told they had authority to search the church premises for evidence pertaining to this arrest.

The world changed that very moment. Nothing would ever be the same. Nothing would ever be able to restore life and its meaning back to what it was just a few short moments before that day. Whether the allegations were true or whether there was a misunderstanding, things had changed in a moment's notice. And yet, I can truly say, there was one thing that did not and had not changed that February day in 2005.

As I began to think about what was happening, what was unfolding before my very eyes I found myself listening to the final words of the Gospel of Matthew: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)

"I will always be with you to the end of age."

Jesus has just given his disciples a very challenging task. He had presented each and every one of them with a task that had the potential of being life-threatening. Go and teach, to baptize and make disciples. That was quite a challenge, quite a demand especially in those times. Their leader had just been crucified on a cross. They, the disciples, were frightened! Who would protect them? Who would keep them safe from those who disliked them, those who objected to what they had to say? Jesus assures them no matter what happens he would walk with them, be with them to eternity.

Sometimes when we are in the valleys of life we cannot see the presence of God in our life. Sometimes the experiences are so dark that we cannot see through the muck and mire. And in those times we can lose hope. We lose sight of the light of Christ in our life and the darkness seems to overtake us. And yet, when we listen to the words of the Gospel writer John in the first chapter of John, we hear words of hope, of light, of assurance.

John 1:1, 3b-5: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God. He was in the beginning with God.... What has come into being in him was life, and life was the light of all the people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did no overcome it."

Christ is the light for all people. Christ's light shines in the darkness, and darkness cannot over come the light. Christ will be with us through all the ages, in the dark times as well as in the light times.

We have been challenged this week. And we are not sure what to do with it.

One thing sure -- Christ is with us. The light of Christ continues to shine and lead us in the paths of darkness. As we continue forward to seek the truth that Christ wants us to know, we are to continue to pray for all concerned. We are to pray for peace and comfort for those victims and family members of the BTK murderer. We must lift them up and ask God for continued strength in the days ahead. We must pray for healing of heart and soul for those who have been victimized in this tragic series of murders.

We are to pray for all law enforcement people for the time and energy they have committed to the task of solving this problem.

As we continue on as a body of Christ, it is important that we show compassion and love towards Dennis. If what is claimed is true we should be about the business of asking for God's help in healing of heart and soul. As we travel from this day forward we should pray for all of Dennis Rader's family members. Bring them peace and comfort as they too wonder what each new day brings.

As a body of Christ we can let the power of these events that come before us either destroy us, to overcome us, or these events can bind us up to a stronger body, to a stronger community in Christ. We have that choice. I propose that we choose to let this be a time of strengthening, of renewing and healing. As we continue to let Christ's light shine in our world, let us become the stronger in faith, in love and in hope. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

Jesus tells us that if we continue in his Word we will know the truth and the truth will free us up, the truth will make us free. The truth from God will free us from the anger, the pain, the bitterness, the hardened heart, the release from being lost and confused.

As a body of Christ we are to continue to search for the truth that Christ brings us on the cross. As we look forward to the Lord's empty tomb and the hope of new life, may Christ's light continually shine in your darkness.

Amen.

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