The REV. ANDREW WOLLMAN Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
---- — He was born in Poland in 1923. By the time he was 16, he was an orphan.
In 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, Elia Miranski lost both of his parents and two of his siblings to war. Elia was certainly scared to death to be so alone while the evil German soldiers slaughtered his family. At one point he found himself hiding in a swamp for three days, fearing for his life. The Germans, with their hunting dogs, searched for anyone and everyone they could find to capture or kill. Elia slid beneath the surface of the swamp breathing only through a straw to hide from the Germans closing in on his location.
Not much is known — at least by this author — of what happened to Elia after that until 1992. Somehow he had outwitted the Germans, hid himself well, and escaped to find refuge in Israel. He stayed there for three years until finally moving to the United States in 1995. Most recently, Mr. Miranski — now 91, calls Silver Spring, Md., his home.
That is, until a bus, loaded with 14 middle-schoolers coming back from a White House field trip, struck him down in a walk way and killed him. The incident is still under investigation, so I can’t tell you anything about why or who’s to blame. But for the purpose of this column, those details aren’t necessary.
It struck me as sadly ironic how a man who had survived so much in his life would find the end to that life in a street struck by a school bus. Doesn’t matter who’s to blame — that’s not the point. There’s always some direction to point blame. The fact is crime happens, accidents happen, evil happens. No one should have to watch their parents and siblings get slaughtered by war. No one should have to survive by hiding under swamp waters breathing through a straw while fearing the dogs who are hunting them down just above. No one should have to flee his home and country to find refuge in a foreign land.
And yet, all that stuff and worse has been happening for centuries in this world. Why are we so cruel to each other? Rodney King once asked something similar, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
How is it that a man who grew up through so much tragedy and made it all the way to 91 years old has to meet death at the nose of a school bus in the middle of the street? Where does all this bad come from?
Well, don’t look out there and blame those Germans. Don’t shake your finger at negligent school bus drivers. Don’t blame the war for your troubles. It’s not those criminals who are at fault. It’s not the evildoers or the bigots or the racists or the scammers or the enemy.
It’s sin. Adam’s gift to the world! Sin! All of this horrific stuff goes on because our world is saturated with sin. Ever see that ShamWow commercial? That towel that soaks up everything and holds it until you choose to ring it out?
That’s our world, and we have been pouring sin into it since the days of Adam and Eve, and it has yet to be wrung out. More and more sin saturating the earth, infecting everything and anything it touches. We have rust because there’s sin. We have decay because there’s sin. We have car breakdowns because there’s sin. We have toilets back up because there’s sin. We have pipes burst, mufflers fall off, refrigerators break down, friends betray us, loss of jobs, back pain and fallen arches because of sin.
And if you’ve ever read Ecclesiastes, the very wise Solomon would tell you that it’s not only not going to change, but it’s going to get worse each and every day until God finally decides to ring it out.
That’s the way of sin, it grows and strengthens and spreads and attacks and clings. Sorry folks, but that’s the reality we are stuck with, no matter what kind of positive spin is attempted to put on it. I won’t and you can’t afford me to pull any punches when it comes to telling you the truth about this. Because you have to understand the seriousness and the definiteness of the situation before you’ll see the need for the solution.
And that, of course, is Jesus Christ. Not the Jesus Christ of the ‘60s and ‘70s who supposedly promised people to trust in him and he would make their lives better. That was a false Jesus; never existed. And not the Jesus Christ of the televangelists who promise for a measly $19.95 they will not only send you their book, but Christ’s blessing of prosperity and wealth! That’s a false Jesus; never existed. There is no Jesus who promises to “make it all better.” At least, not in an earthly, physical sense.
There is, however, a Jesus — a real Jesus — who has promised that he has already made it all better spiritually speaking, and that one day at his choosing — the day of wringing out the earth of its sin — it would also make things physically all better as well. Glory comes through the cross, however. There’s no going around it. Jesus showed the way. Live under the law, survive in this world with the Father’s help, suffer and endure the sinful effects of the world and your own heart, and glory awaits you in the form of blissful rest with him.
This real Jesus, has won this other life for you by coming to live your life here and now. He lived without sin so that his Father would accept his living as yours. He died the death that sin deserved, so that his Father would accept his death in your place. This has already been done for you. There is nothing you have to do to obtain it. No, you don’t have to accept it. If you are to believe it, God will make it so. If you are to reject it, you will make it so.
Bottom line? You might have cause in this sinful world to slip into a swamp and breath through a straw while dogs hunt you down. But even if they find you and slaughter you, you are safe for all eternity because of what Christ has accomplished on your behalf. Nothing can come between you and him. Not as long as you are trusting and relying upon him for your salvation; for your perfection; for your forgiveness. Any ol’ school bus can come along and take you then, because you’ll be ready.
The Rev. Andrew Wollman is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Goshen and author of the book, “The Pastor’s Pen.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.