Luke 21:5-19 5

“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Tomorrow, 51 years ago, sealing began at the Farmington Mine where 78 miners were killed. All during Thanksgiving week, for 9 days, families and the world waited for hope that some miners could be saved through numerous efforts.

It failed.

This added another piece of sorrow to us all, from previous disasters beginning with Monongah in 1907, Barrackville, Farmington in 1954 and this one in 1968.

As a seminary student, following graduation from Fairmont State, Rev. Richard Bowyer, then campus minister of Fairmont State and president of the Board of Valley Mental Health, asked if I could come and be a listening ear and do whatever I could to be a comfort—not just to families but to officials and others.

For seven days I did, sleeping on make-shift pews, listening, taking phone calls, and shielding family members from press and uninvited persons.

When I returned to seminary, I kept thinking what good can come out of this tragedy? Is there any? I eventually heard of new legislation being developed in Congress, which later came to be passed as, Public Law 91-173, 91st Congress, S. 2917, Dec. 30, 1969.

Over the next few months, with the assistance of my dad, a supply clerk in Osage, W.Va. at Pursglove Mine No. 15, I had an opportunity to talk to leaders, to visit the coal mines, talk to the miners and our Congressmen.

Unfortunately, I discovered, that often change only comes after a tragedy occurs. This was true after the Monongah Disaster of 1907. And ultimately, there is good that triumphs over death and evil.

The end result was the creation of a new agency under the Department of the Interior to oversee governance of the safety of the mine and the creation of a fund to compensate miners for what we term “black lung.”

The safety of the miners was placed at a premium. The life of our Lord exemplified that.

From the bleak birth, the hazardous travel to Egypt, the mistrust of the religious leaders to the crucifixion, His life was anything but successful. Yet, his life, as well as his sacrifice, gave us the opportunity to turn our bad into best and our tragedies into triumphs. Even in the darkest moments, there can be that glimmer of light to guide us, that thread to hold onto, and that hope to sustain us.

And the opposite is true as well.

When the people praised the temple and its beauty, and all seemed wonderful, Jesus warned them that the worst would come and the stones would cry out. The beauty of what is could easily become the bleakness of the day. I think of the raging fires that destroyed homes and lives in the West.

People thought they were secure for life; their stone homes invincible to the force of nature. But they were met with disaster in a matter of hours. As the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed by the Romans, never be so assured that everything is so good that it can’t go bad.

Anyone of us may be a paycheck or two away from homelessness or an injury or illness from a lifetime of medical dependency.

The lesson is to remain stable in an unstable world; where we live precariously between the no longer and the not yet; and trust the One who gave us life in His living. May we always see beyond the sun and behind the shadows and always seek to follow our Lord in word and example.

My mother, who was paralyzed for life prior to my twin sister and I’s birth, always had a smile, kept a diary, loved the Pirates, and wrote a monthly column for her church to the newspaper. She gave me the example of life to live by one day.

She was so disgusted that the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn’t get out of last place– for like, 4 straight years. So one day, she took the newspapers and turned it upside down and said to me, “Now, the Pirates are in first place.”

May we turn life upside down when life turns us upside down and look at our strength—our Lord, the cornerstone of our faith.

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