I have no idea what to say to you. I have no idea. Any thing I
say today will make sense only by the grace of God. I am glad that
when I sat down to write this sermon on Friday afternoon at the
computer, after the prayer service at St. Dominic's Catholic
Church-I am glad that I had been reminded during that service and
shortly before it that God is Almighty and in God's arms we are
safe. I am glad that I remembered that. It took me a while but I
This week I have moved and continue to move between disbelief, crippling fear, sadness and grief, unquenchable anger, and I hate to admit this, but very brief moments of complacency, a hohumness, a sort of "well, I am safe in Minnesota" kind of attitude.
I am all over the place. I see such a far reaching significance in the falling of the twin towers, that I can not shake it. No matter what I reply is-there is world-changing significance in what happens next. I go to bed with it and I dream through the night with it, waking up with my teeth clenched-it is the first image in my mind's eye. The only moments of peace that I have come when I remember that God has promised, has covenanted unconditionally to be my God and dead or alive I belong to God. I did not for whatever reason take time to remind myself of that very often this week.
We had a prayer service Tuesday night at St. Peter's Lutheran--full church--3 pastors, myself included spent the day preparing for it. Then Thursday 5 of us pastors, came together in the morning to talk about what we might preach. I was in anger mode and heard very little they said. Then at the end of that meeting the secretary came in and told us President Bush had named the next day, Friday, as a national day of prayer and remembrance and the churches were urged to come together at noon. The five of us looked at each other and began the sketches of what that service would look like. We decided to come together an hour before at St. Dominics and plan the worship. There was the suggestion that we arrive with ideas for scripture.
So Friday morning I got up and ran hills, I haven't done that since I was in high school. You just pick a hill and you run up it and you walk down. And you keep doing it over and over-going up hill, pounding it, imagining it flattened. The way you beat the hill is by keeping your eyes down, imagining that you are on flat ground. You do not look at the incline ahead of you, instead you just pound along. When I got to the office I sat down to think about what scripture might work for the prayer service, but just then my brother called from work and asked if I had a few minutes. He just wanted to say hi. He never does that. He said he can't handle the people on TV who are holding pictures of their loved ones. I began to cry and I said I loved him and he said he loved me.
I had only a few minutes to think about what scripture to speak and so scribbled down some thoughts and headed off barefoot shoes in hand to St. Dominics.
After the service I came back to the church alone and I went out to the sanctuary to pray, I lit the cross and I screamed at it. After that I went to the office and looked over the notes that I had written on Monday (the last day of normal that we remember) about the scriptures for today. After Tuesday I had been thinking about how I was going to have to change the scriptures, I hadn't gone over them really with Holly, our music leader, because we met at 10:15 on Tuesday and prayed and cried. I thought maybe I would do something completely different, allowing you to speak, share in prayer and silence. But then it came to me we are all searching for a word in this, we all want someone to say something, we can agree or disagree, but someone has to say something about the greater meanings here.
And so here we are gathered, with the same scriptures I would have used if tragedy had not struck our hearts this week. Holly chose the liturgy of creation which reminds us whose creation this is and who we believe in and so here we are to hear the word and so I will preach it to you.
Exodus. Those people have finally done it. God has rescued them from slavery, taken them by the hand out of Egypt and now these people, as they wait for a word from Moses, (he has gone up the mountain to get instructions from God)--as they wait for a word, they get restless, they give into feeling of being lost in the wilderness-a feeling of insecurity, abandonment. They need a leader, someone, something, Moses is gone and who is going to feed them, take control here, things are too scary and they tell Aaron, we need something thing, some control, some word. Moses may not come back so let's just build our own god, lets take matters into our own hands here. We need something now to tell us the answers.
They build the Golden Calf and they worship it.
God sees this and this is it, this is enough. All they have been doing since he saved them is complaining and now they have decided to create a god for themselves. God is finished, sorry he saved them. Just like before the flood when God looks at the wickedness and is sorry he even made people.
What was God feeling when he saw those planes fly into the towers? Disbelief, utter sorrow, anger? "How can my people do this to each other!!!!!!!!!! How can my people do this to each other? Moses, stand back this is it, I did it wrong, I should never have saved them, I should never have made them. They only kill each other, they only make up their own gods, their own values, their own rules, they twist my religions and make them ugly. They fight and kill in my name and they worship in my name and they don't even know my name-none of them!!!!! Moses stand back!"
When I read this scripture of God on the verge of annilating his people in light of the fires that still burn in the pentagon and the smoke that still rises from the heap of the twin towers, I screamed at God. Burning hot wrath, God wanted to fling at those in the wilderness. Thank you God, that is what we need to hear.
God I am in that wildnerness!! I am in the wildneress! Don't kill me! Don't kill me! I am lost, I just got lost! I followed these other gods-ideology, diviseness, nationalism, 'homosexuality is a sin, homosexuality is not sin', conservative theology, liberal theology, the Moravian Way, the Pope, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Martin Luther, John Hus, I followed, I did. But I did not know where else to go. I do not know where else to go.
Moses was alone with God and he looked God in the face and told God you can not do this! You can not destroy your people. Turn from your fierce anger, change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people, remember Abraham, remember Issaac, remember Israel, I add, remember Ishmael. You swore to them by your own self that would multiply them, that they would have descendants. That there would be a remnant!
The Good News: The Lord changed his mind.
This story is not about the wrath of God, it is about the strength of a promise, about steadfastness, HESED, tested over and over and over again. God does not leave us, God did not will this destruction no matter what any one says, no matter what I say. God does not will any destruction on any soil of this garden we call earth. We may enter into war, but God will be weeping in middle of it, not on either side. That, I promise you, is a FACT.
In a war we are all lost-Muslim, Jew, Christian.
The shepherd in Luke had 99 other sheep; the woman had 9 other coins - they both search until they are bloody for the one they had lost. Those who have been searching for survivors in midst of death, search until they are bloody for those who are lost. And when there are no more survivors, they will search for the bodies of those who have gone to God, those who are no longer lost, but are safe at home.
We are all lost, but Luke tells us that we have a Savior that will go until he is bloody to find us and bring us on his shoulder, home.
And so that is how we shall live, from this day, Sept 16 and the days that follow, as those who are found. Dead or alive, we are found by God. Amen.
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