This was supposed to have been posted last Sunday, hence the reference to 9/11. The point is still valid. These are my thoughts for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, 11 September 2005. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Exodus 14: 19 – 31, Romans 14: 1 – 12, and Matthew 18: 21 – 35.
On this the fourth anniversary of 9/11, we need to stop and not so much pause to remember those whose lives were lost in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon but look and see what we have done since then. I am not saying that we should ignore those deaths but it is quite clear that the squabbling and arguing that has dominated the past four years has shown that we do not know how to best honor and remember those individuals. At what point will we begin to decide that it is better to remember and honor these individuals by working to remove the reasons that caused the attacks in the first place?
We are now locked in what seems to be an endless war in Iraq. The reason for this war was linked to the attacks on 9/11 but there has never been any proof that there was a link. The people responsible for the attacks on 9/11 have not been caught and continue to taunt our political leaders from afar. At what point will we, the people of this country, begin to question the rationale and the reasoning for the war which does nothing but sap the strength of this country by taking away the youth of this country?
Peter asked Jesus how much forgiveness one should give someone who wronged you. Jesus said that we should go beyond your anger and forgive them more than they angered you. We seemed to have forgotten this teaching of Christ as we seek to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged us. At what point will our public proclamations that we are Christians become our actions?
Paul points out that it is up to God, not us, to determine justice. He wrote to the Romans “who is it among us that can judge others? Is not God the ultimate and final authority?” (my interpretation of Romans 14: 1 – 12) Paul also noted that “every knee shall bow to God”, so why is it that we still insist that we have the right to judge others.
Yet, that is exactly what is happening in this world today. As Bill Moyers noted, there is a growing population who feel that they have the right to tell us what is on God’s mind, be it with regards to 9/11 and its aftermath or Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. We all have the right and the ability to interpret what God is saying but we do not have the right to impose those thoughts on others or to claim that they are the “true” meaning of God’s thought. (http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0909-36.htm) At what point shall we realize that we can never be God nor should we claim to be God’s voice. We can say that we are God’s representatives but not God’s mind nor His thoughts. Have we forgotten what happened when the people tried to build the tower of Babel?
The Tower of Babel was built so that the people of the world could remain as one people. This was in defiance of God’s commandments. God told Noah and his family to repopulate the earth following the Great Flood. This required that they disperse over all of the earth. In building the Tower, the people wanted to come together in a single place, in direct opposition to God’s desires and commandment that they spread out. God chose to give each person a different language so that they could not communicate individually and thus not conspire against Him. Those who say that they speak for God and try to force us to follow their line of thinking apparently don’t remember this warning from God.
The results of Hurricane Katrina remind us that we can never expect to win the war against nature. Moses was able to part the waters of the Red Sea but that was only because it was God who did it; Moses was simply the instrument by which it was accomplished. At what point will we realize that we are God’s instruments and not God Himself?
At what point will we see that God gave us the ability and the capability to act to bring this world closer to the kingdom of Heaven? There are those who want to push science back, saying that it subverts and replaces God. But science allows us to see the great works of God, not replace God. At what point will we understand God wants us to learn so that we can see our world better?
We cannot say that it is God’s will that a hurricane destroyed so many lives and so much property because there was sin and wickedness in New Orleans. Nor can we say that God allowed the tragedy of 9/11 because of the politics of this nation. It has become increasingly clear in both cases that it was we who ignored the warnings of impending doom and disaster.
Those who make such claims also believe that God will take them individually from this earth at the proper time. But if God were to exercise that power and take away His believers at a moment’s notice, could and would He not simply single out the sinners of this world and destroy them rather than allowing such wholesale destruction? He did it before; why would He not do so again?
God sent a sign in the form of a rainbow to Noah that He would never again destroy the world in a manner such as the Great Flood. He also sent a second sign in the form of His Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. At what point will we heed the message of the Gospel and work to improve this world, not destroy it with our greed and ignorance?
Katrina showed that we have ignored Jesus’ mission. At what point shall we realize that it is we who are the ones who asked “when did we see the sick, the weak, the homeless, and the oppressed?” While those that had were able to escape, the sick, the poor, the homeless were not. We have too long ignored the fringes of society, feeling that they were somehow unworthy of being part of society. At what point will we begin to realize that all of us, not just some are God’s children?
We look around us each day at the violence, death, destruction that comes from nature and our own forces. At what point shall we stand up and say that this is enough?
At what point will we truly become the followers of Christ that we say we are? Today should be that point when we begin to make the Gospel message a reality on this earth and not simply words said politely on Sunday morning?
I hope that all that has transpired this past month and all the events of remembrance for those who died on 9/11 and those who suffer on the Gulf Coast will help you hear Christ calling to you, I hope that you will feel the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart and asking that you open your heart.” I hope that when you finish reading this, you will take the light of Christ, that one shining light in a world of darkness and despair, out into the world so that others can begin to see that there is hope.