The sermon for week September 11, 2011
Genesis 3:19, Proverbs 27:19, Luke 9:46-50
It is strange to have a “Rally the Disciples Day” on the 10 year anniversary of September 11th. This sermon has to incorporate discipleship, 9-11, circles and wearing hats to church. That’s a lot to do, so let me start by telling you a Native American story I once read.
A young boy went to see his grandfather because he was angry that one of his friends had committed a terrible injustice against him and he wanted revenge. He wanted his grandfather’s advice on how to get revenge.
His grandfather sat the boy down and said, “I know those feelings. I’ve had them myself. I, too, have had the feelings of hatred and anger and lust for blood and a need for revenge. It’s as though there were two wolves inside of me fighting to control my soul.
“One is a good wolf that takes care of its pups is peaceful and only fights when it’s necessary and only fights as much as it’s necessary. And the other wolf is an angry, angry, angry wolf that strikes out in all directions whenever it’s given a chance.
“And these two wolves,” the grandfather added, “are inside of me all the time fighting to dominate my soul.”
The grandson thought about it for a second and then asked, “I don’t get it grandfather, which wolf wins?”
And the grandfather answered, “The one that I feed.” (Loehr, 107-108)
We have those two wolves fighting for control of our soul as a nation and fighting for control of our individual souls. The wolf that wins will be the wolf that we feed. We’re in a time of great pain and hurting: an economic downturn, two costly wars, and natural disasters across the south and up the East Coast. The constant partisan fighting continues, and it seems as though even our friendships are starting to divide along party lines.
We in this church are in a time of transition. We have lost our pastor of 25 years, and a few members have died. We are in a time of change and uncertainty.
As a culture, we are still reeling from the affects of 9-11 and trying to cope with how fast and how much our world changed that day. In that coping an argument has arisen between some Christians and Muslims, an argument of which religion is the greatest.
In our churches and mosques the wolves are fighting. On one side there are the peaceful wolves. Those that preach a theology of peace; a theology of a very big God with no army, only disciples. This theology of peace is about uniting races, nations, genders, sexual orientations and anything else. They recognize that we are all children of the same God and it’s a very BIG GOD.
The violent wolves provide a theology of war. An us vs. them attitude. It’s “conform or hit the road.” It’s a very small God and a very BIG army. You see this theology in statements from the Taliban and the Islamofacists and the Christian fundamentalists.
Which wolf will win? Which should we feed?
That depends on our world view and to understand the two wolves, let’s turn to science.
If we understand the wolves in terms of Newtonian physics. Newton’s world was fixed and predictable. No atom could be reduced to anything smaller, all atoms obeyed the same laws. Thus most teachers explain Newton’s brand of physics by using billiard balls. They are wholly impervious to one another, they knock into each other, they don’t “meet” and the laws are iron clad.
This would be the world view of the violent wolf. When taken to a cultural view, Newton’s physics means each and every person is isolated and unknowable. There must be winners and losers--some people are the cue ball while others are the numbered ones.
There must be winners and losers. There can’t be any compromise whatsoever. There must be a greatest, and there must be a least, and the violent wolf will do anything it can to be the greatest.
But Jesus doesn’t play by those rules. Jesus was a Quantum thinker. Quantum Physics, in contrast to Newton, contends there are NO solid, individual parts that are unaffected by and unrelated to one another. Separate and isolated entities are an illusion. In fact there are smaller things than atoms, things so small that there are no particles, only relationships. The world is not defined by polar opposites and isolated individuals but defined by networks and concentric circles; layers upon layers of a reality defined by relationships between connected communities.
This is the view of the peaceful wolf and taken to a cultural view, this means that each of us can only be defined through our relationships. I am because you are. I can only know myself by comparing myself to something else and what type of relationship I have with that something else; whether it be my friends and family, my community, my faith, etc. “All of life is connected and interactive.” (Steinke, 23) Thus my dealings with others will not be adversarial and strictly competitive but instead relational and have more than enough room for compromise.
Everything is dependent on everything else. All parts are dependent on one another and mutually affect each other. As the Apostle Paul put it, “For just as each of us has one body with many parts, and these parts do not all have the same function, so in God we, though many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others.” That’s quantum thinking in Romans 12:4 & 5.
And Jesus ramps it up stating that not only are we connected, those who want to be the greatest must seek to be the least. If someone is doing good, do not stop them, for whoever is not against you is for you.
That should rattle you. That should shake you. Because that means the peaceful wolf must love and serve the violent one. It’s totally counter to our thinking and our biology. We seek self-preservation. Loving our enemy, especially one that would fly planes into buildings and kill innocents is a radical, hard concept.
And it’s one that works.
As disciples we’re called, no commanded, to love our enemies. The civil rights campaign was nonviolent and it worked. Gandhi defeated the British without firing a shot. And here’s the most important thing: 10 years after 9-11 we find that Osama bin Laden has been killed, but he was long dead before that. His methods of violence were rendered obsolete by The Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring are those revolutions, demonstrations and protests that have occurred throughout the Middle East in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. The protests have shared techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media like Facebook and Youtube, Western creations mind you, to rise up and over throw their governments.
They did not seek to reform those governments and install a system of law based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran nor did they seek to make bin Laden their king, as he thought they would. No. The people rose for democracy, for rights and freedoms they feel the Koran gives them noting that the Koran also calls for peace with one's neighbor.
This is not type of Middle East that the violent wolf of Osama bin Laden wanted.
It is a revolution driven by moderate Muslims, the very ones bin Laden preached against for being too soft. It is the very truth upon which this country was founded, namely that democracy must be the people’s choice. Any government must be of, by and for the people. The very thing bin Laden fought against.
The wolf of violence looks strong--it’s intimidating, but Jesus tells us that in the kingdom of God the lion will lay down with the lamb. And in that kingdom the world is not of isolated individuals, not of competing trajectories that will smash into one another, but of concentric circles, each relating to another, each defined by another. And so we must work toward that day. As disciples of Christ, as Children of God.
In our days and weeks and months ahead, I hope we can find those connections and reach out our hands to our neighbors, to those across the political lines, to those we see as “others” as we begin to make our future together. AMEN.
Loehr, Davidson. America Fascism and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2005.
Steinke, Peter. Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times. The Alban Institute, 2006.