Summary: In a time of war it is important to be reminded of God’s intention for the world and for us.
Rev. Roger Haugen
It has been a tough week. The tension of the build-up to war has sapped many of us of energy. The war that seemed so inevitable, yet undesirable has arrived and we are not left untouched. There have been peace marches and prayer vigils around the world with many impassioned pleas for peace. There have been many well thought-out reasons for war put forward by intelligent people. Many unsettled nights of sleep. We have heard the rhetoric from President Bush and also from Saddam Hussein, both claiming God on their side and the cause of justice and right firmly in their respective favour.
There is the fear of what might be, now that war has indeed been declared. Will the western world be open game for terrorism? If terrorism is the incitement of terror, then surely the cause of terrorism took a great leap forward this week, for we are indeed afraid. What do the days ahead have in store for the people of Iraq and the Middle East? What do the days have in store for us?
If the United Nations no longer holds authority on the world stage and in world events, what does this mean for international law and the idea that we should treat each other with civility and respect? Have we moved to frontier justice where the loudest and the strongest are in charge? The rules have changed and we shudder at the consequences of which we have only a glimmer.
At first it might seem that our gathering here today in worship is of no consequence. Why bother go about our liturgical routine, walking another week into Lent? Hearing and reflecting upon the texts appointed for today? We gather as Christians today because we need to gather around the hope that we have. We need to gather to speak of the basis for that hope in as clear terms as we possibly can. We gather today to remind ourselves of God’s intentions for us and for God’s world and to have the strength to carry that message to the desperate world around us.
The texts today help us remember our basis of hope, remember that even when evil seems to be in charge, God is God. The texts today, as every week, place our relationship to God at the very centre of our being. The texts this week allow us to confess ways in which we have strayed from this relationship and provide a way back.
1 Corinthians reminds us to remember God’s wisdom and God’s strength. “Remember that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” But for those of us who seek to live as children of God it is the power of God. Don’t get caught up in the wisdom of those who claim to be wise, because that is not God’s wisdom. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” We are to be a voice of God’s intentions for the world and not be confused by apparent power and wisdom.
We need also to watch how our intentions and our wisdom want to take over. The pattern in the Old Testament is as old as human nature and continues today. God created the world and said it was good, but before long jealousy came into being and murder was quick to follow. Humankind discovered their amazing gift of language and began to plot how to work together to build a tower up to God. The tower of Babel quickly came down and the world rushed toward the time of the flood. Over and over God placed his blessing upon a leader only to see that leader use his power for his own advantage rather than the good of the people. Over and over again, leaders have claimed to have God on their side and then abused their power thinking that God was their servant. The only place we can be sure that God is in any conflict between weak and strong, is on the side of the weak. God is with us when we stand beside the weak and the oppressed.
From Exodus we read the Ten Commandments. These statements are invitations to holiness. These are helps for us to know how to live so that we safeguard the relationship that God has created with each one of us. A writer Joe Weaks has created a paraphrase of the Commandments that are helpful. As I read them, think about how the paraphrase relates to our world situation today. What do God’s intentions say to us this week?
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
Do not grant any other power or presence higher priority or greater influence than me on your life.