In The Aftermath Of Heartbreak


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / August 27, 2017

Sometimes the events of life help us prepare for heartbreak.

When our loved ones grow older we begin to come to terms with the inevitable.

When brothers or sisters in Christ take ill, we start to accept that reality that man’s days are numbered.

But every once in a while we are totally caught off guard and bowled over by an unexpected turn of events.

Mark Lombardi’s sudden passing has struck us unaware and ill-prepared.

Mark was a stalwart.  He was strong and sturdy.  Mark was a life-saver.

He had overcome colon cancer and appeared to not miss a beat.

He was our resident “first responder”; the one we expected would bail us out if and when we needed help.

Mark took to the ocean in Fort Lauderdale a week ago Saturday morning to do some recreational scuba-diving.

He and Fred Chester had been diving for several days previously - - they were both certified and experienced divers.

There was no horseplay going on - - they both knew the seriousness of the sport.

Together, they were basking in the anticipation of two-weeks of pleasure diving.

On that Saturday morning they were practicing in rather shallow waters for a bigger, deeper, more-exciting dive.

Their plans were to go to the Florida Keys and dive deep to explore sunken shipwrecks.

But on that fateful day eight days ago, for reasons still unknown, Mark went down but never came up.

One his best buddies, Fred Chester, was there by himself, knowing no others, to cope with the aftermath.

When the tragedy became real, Fred called me in a state of shock.

The attending policeman needed to speak with J, and Fred couldn’t gather himself to call her, understandably so.

Fred’s call put me in a state of disbelief and an instantaneous and horrible sadness.

I called J with a broken heart knowing that I was about to break her heart.

It was the most difficult phone call I have ever made.

The urgency of the circumstance demanded immediate contact. 

The policeman was standing on the beach waiting for her to call.

After the phone call, Jeannie and I went immediately to Burton to be with J and Niko.

J and her family are heartbroken.  Jeannie and I are hurting. 

Our elders and deacons are grief-stricken.  Our entire church family is in mourning.

All of us are trying to cope with a very deep sorrow.



I know there are circumstances of life that sometimes require that we not look back.

Lot and his wife and two daughters were urged by two angels to escape from Sodom, and to not look back (Gen.19:17).

Sadly, Lot’s wife disobeyed and was subsequently turned into a pillar of salt.

LK.17:32 records words given by Jesus concerning the need for disciples to flee Jerusalem in advance of its destruction.

It’s one of the shortest verses in Scripture - - remember Lot’s wife.  i.e., “don’t look back!”

In the final episode of his “Daring Faith” video series, Randy Harris discusses Jesus’ encounter with Peter in Jn.21:15f.

Randy warns of the danger of what he calls nostalgic faith (faith that looks backward instead of forward).

Peter could have wallowed in self pity for the rest of his life (shamefully he had denied Jesus three times),

but His loving Lord Jesus pointed him forward, telling him three times - - “Feed My Sheep.”

Having said this, I also know that sweet memories are a gift from God.

This gift of memory helps to sustain us in our days of sorrow and sadness. 

It is my belief that sweet memories contain a healing element - - they are truly cathartic.

In one of David’s psalms (Ps.56:8), David finds great comfort in the realization that

(God) has taken account of my wanderings; (He) had put my tears in His bottle.

My sorrows, Are they not in Thy book (of remembrance)?

In the early 1800’s, William Wordsworth wrote a poem reflecting on the past days of his younger years.

Turn wheresoe’er I may,  By night or day,  The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The sunshine is a glorious birth;  But yet I know, where’er I go,  That there has pass’d away a glory from the earth

What though the radiance which was once so bright   Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.

Regarding Mark, we all have many good memories.

Perhaps of events here at church…of a Lads-to-Leaders excursion…of summer youth camp…private & personal events.

For me, camp will never be quite the same.  For 28 consecutive summers Mark had been a mainstay and workhorse.

But, whether it is camp or life in the church in general, we must allow our sweet memories of Mark to spur us onward.


To leverage strength for the future when things seem so bleak and we feel so weak, we must look heavenward.

One again we turn to the psalms of David.  With poetic beauty, David gives us direction (Ps.121) - -

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come?

My help comes the Lord, who made heaven and earth…He who keeps you will not slumber…

The Lord is your keeper…The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.

Such tragedies as the one we have faced this past week, remind us of two things.

  1. Our life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (Js.4:14).

There is a sense of fragility that accompanies even the strongest among us.

In the words of Moses from Ps.90:10 / soon it is gone and we fly away.

Dylan Wood lost his beloved Boyscout Troop Master just recently.  In the twinkling of an eye he was gone.

In the late morning of August 19, Mark was fully alive.  By early afternoon he had stepped into eternity with God.

  1. Secondly, we are reminded that God is sovereign and that none of us are really ever in full control.

When tragedy strikes we must not get hung up on the “why?”,

And we must not get bogged down in the analytics of theodicy (where is God when calamity breaks in?).

Rather than dwelling on the question:  where did it come from?, which so often is unprofitable and incomprehensible,

let us exert our energy and exercise our faith by focusing on a far better question:  where will this lead us?.

In last winter’s sermon series on Job, we encountered the wise words spoken by Elihu, by a God-given advocate for Job.

Job 35:5 / Look at the heavens and see; and behold the clouds - - they are much higher than you.

The prophet Isaiah spoke solemn and sobering words to the wearied nation of Israel (Isa.51:1) - -

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord:  Look to the ROCK from which you were hewn…

The apostle Paul makes an amazing revelation in 1Cor.10:4.

Throughout their wilderness journey, the nation of Israel was sustained by a ROCK that provided life-giving water.

Paul states:  that ROCK was Christ.

In the last days of Judaism, when the first covenant was waxing old and ready to vanish (Heb.8:13);

when Christians were being persecuted and martyred at a fever pitch, our brethren - - those first-century saints of old - -

were charged to fix their eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb.12:2-3).

By the act of considering HIM, our forefathers in the faith, found strength so as not to grow weary and lose heart.

Let us beseech our Heavenly Father.

We will not get through this without ceaseless prayer.

We have the assurance that our great God is the father of mercies and God of all comfort (2Cor.1:3).

We will stand again, but such standing anew will only come when we have spent time on our knees.


Last of all, and just ever so briefly, let me point us to one another.

We are THE FAMILY OF GOD.  There is a golden tie that binds us.

That golden tie is a resilient bond that is made ever so strong by the precious blood of our Savior and Lord.

The book of Acts is an abbreviated history of the early church.

Much of it focuses on Paul’s proclamation of the gospel, to the Jews first and also to the Greeks.

Paul had his heart set on going to Rome (Rom.15:23f).

The book of Acts ends as a cliffhanger.

Acts 28:14 contains the phrase, “and thus we came to Rome.”

The next verse (Acts 28:15) is not the official ending, but it provides a smile for whatever the future was to hold.

And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius

and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

Mark Lombardi loved his church family … this church family.

Let us resolve to love one another back to health.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Heal our broken hearts.  Bind up our wounds.  Be to us a Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Thank You for the many rich blessings experienced by our church family because of the life our dear and faithful brother Mark.

Grant us peace and joy in the days ahead.  Wipe away our tears so that we might reflect on the good memories of days gone by.  Help us to fix our eyes upon Jesus.  And continue to bless us by the presence of one another. We are Your sheep.

In the midst of these winds of heartache that have blown us off our feet, we pray to You, through Christ our Shepherd and Shelter.

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