Bridging the gap between weekday devastation and Sunday’s sermon.

The murder of Linda Vander Veen, age 11, greatly affected people in the Grand Rapids area this year. Linda was abducted from her safety patrol post near Mulick Park Public School at 8:30 on the morning of February 12, 1979, by a man in a black car. Eight agonizing hours later her body was found in a snow bank, less than a mile away, strangled from behind with her own chain necklace. Dazed with grief and ill with anger, we groped through the week after the horror of the first news on Monday.

The following Sunday members of a sick community gathered in the many churches, needing, more than we knew, help and healing for our heartaches and resentments.

An informal survey found that in a few churches the sermon dealt specifically with the wounds of grieving congregations. These pastors recognized their opportunity and responsibility to use the sermon and the Scriptures to heal the brokenhearted throngs who spiritually staggered to church, shocked and bleeding from Linda’s murder.

But what the majority of others experienced that Sunday may not have been unusual, for many have grown accustomed to a gap between weekday devastation and the Sunday morning sermon.

In my own adult Sunday school class that weekend, we tried in vain to discuss the lesson for the day. But almost every comment led back to the incredible events of the preceding Monday. We had to talk about it. Fortunately, our leader didn’t pressure us to keep to the text, but he allowed our hidden agendas to be dealt with. Battlefield experience and research has shown us that the best thing that can be done for soldiers who have faced combat is to give them a chance very soon to debrief. They talk about what they’ve ...

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