I had some beautiful thoughts to share with you today…. but they will keep for another day. Along with many of you I have been watching the news with a level of horror and dismay. My thoughts are with Brussels and its people.
If I were a more fiery a type of Presbyterian than I am, I may have chosen to speak to you about the sinfulness of man, the reality of evil and all that as God’s regents over the created world we have opened the world to when we turned from God…. however, such preaching can sound like gloating as though it all proves our religious point if only the world would listen to us. I remember feeling sickened watching Christian Satellite TV after 9/11 as it almost seemed on some channels at least there was an excitement, a wondering what prophecies were being fulfilled by such events. There was also an unseemly rush of claimants as to who had prophesied this was coming. The secular news was much more dignified in its coverage of that dreadful day, so much more compassionate. The truth was no one’s prophecy prevented this. I found God in the dismay and distress of secular channels rather than in the confident explanations of Christian triumphalism applauded by TV audiences.
Today I found that my mind went back to January 1st. 2015. On that New Year’s Day , I woke up with a sense of spiritual sadness. I cannot prove to you what that was about, but I can tell you what I believed then and still believe I was experiencing. I was feeling something of the Holy Spirit’s grief and sadness about the world. Particularly I found myself thinking about terrorism and the distress and fear it promotes among us all today.
I remember hearing Brother Andrew speak about a verse in the bible that he believed to be one of the spiritual roots of how terrorism takes a hold of someone’s life: “No one cares for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4) I humbly bring another piece to the complex jigsaw. As I lay in bed on that New Year’s Day, I found myself thinking of the words of the Pharisee in Luke 18. In that chapter Jesus tells a story about two men praying. One boasted before God while the other, a cheating tax collector, humbled himself before God. The boaster said, “I thank you that I am not like all other men, robbers, evil doers adulterers or even like this tax collector !” Having spoken about the inferiority of the other, he goes on to widen the distance between them as he boasts before God of his own superiority.
“I am not like all other men… we are not like all other people.”
To do what was done in Brussels today one must surely have a mindset, of “us” and “them.” Surely one has to believe that the “them” are somehow less worthy than “us.” One only has to look back not too far in the history of Europe to see what happens when “us” and “them” becomes a dominant thought in the mind of an individual, a group or culture. It is easy to present the “them” as less than human. Indeed that has been done. The Jews were presented in Nazi propaganda as rats, sub human. “Us” and “them” when it becomes a matter of indoctrination and established belief in the mind of a culture can have horrifying results to the extent that there is a feeling of justification, even an obligation to at least rid our own land if not to the whole world of “them.”
I know that there is much more to understanding the mind of a terrorist than what I have written, but I am convinced what I have written is part of the story.
Please hear me. Our job is not to add fuel to the fire of “us” and “them.” Rather than that, I believe such roots are there in every heart. Is there someone you are looking down upon today? Someone to whom you feel superior? I am a bit ashamed of British politics and the levels of insult to which it can descend by default. I also find American politics of the moment difficult to understand, but I do confess the mutual rhetoric by which Christians who are Republicans and Christians who are Democrats refer to one another, worries me. When people are referred to as snakes by possible Presidential Candidates, well, that worries me too…
We will never find an answer to all of this until the heart of man is humbled of all its tendency to feel superior, and we find ourselves kneeling with a lost and broken world saying,”I am like all other men. I share in the weakness and the irrationalities and sinfulness of all peoples.” Will the day ever come when we kneel together before the cross on level ground, admitting we all need God’s healing and grace?
This is a day to weep together.
Here is the poem I wrote sometime after watching Christian Satellite TV’s coverage of “9/11.” I remembered it today and looked it out for you. I guess it is simply a plea to suffer with those who suffer today, and to believe in the sacred worth of every human life: I hope God may use it to help you in your thinking and praying today. It is also an appeal for us to ask for something at least of Abba’s love for His children, lost or found…
Sign Language “A sign! A sign!The Towers are on the ground, The seas are landward bound, Those known are nowhere found! Yet, “Notice me! I saw it coming! Wrote it down - Check the date - That was penned of old, not of late!”
“A Sign, a Sign!” Excitement in the eye… but Did the Seer’s loved ones die? Breathless explanation of what it means, Testosterone strutting, Adrenaline rushing, Greeted with applause and praise and a bigger offering… but did the Preacher’s precious child join the fellowship of suffering? “Who dares to speak? Who is this who darkens my counsel without knowledge, to trim the Lion of Judah’s claws, forgetting crushed hearts and hopes and hurting feet? Sign language is for the deaf of heart, for those who cannot hear My sigh for Abba’s crying child.”