Psalm 23 and Jeremiah 8
Rev. Hans Poetschner

DIAIRIES OF THE LATE GOD:  God says: It is not my fault that there are earthquakes. Yes, I created the earth. And sometimes it quakes. That's all there is to it.

Looking at sermons on the net, I find 3 major themes: 1. Is it time to start a just war? 2. Whose fault is it anyway? 3. How -- if -- can we forgive such evil?

What, however, are we going to do about ourselves, our own soul in such a time or moral conflict? In the confrontation with pure evil, our soul get pushed out of whatever equilibrium we might have reached through life experience, faith journey, and spiritual maturity.  For those who can comprehend the massiveness of such an event, and terror of possible consequences, life as we knew it is no more.  W may talk about forgiveness, or mercy, or grace, but most of all we need to talk about our own anxiety.

Last week I discussed how we can overcome as Christian's such anxiety in relationship with our environment.  Today I want to discuss how we can deal with our internal anxieties and their possible consequences. 

The first origin of our spiritual crisis comes from the sudden rise of the old sinful human being within us.  Many may feel they are thrown back to an early spiritual state, a place dominated by vengeance, fear, and greed.  We have entered, what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul: a place without God.  We raise the flag of man and let if wave above the cross; we yearn for salvation by the material.  The enemy becomes in our imagination overpowering and omnipresent. Such feeling may lead to self-defeating behaviors.  The result can be behavior ruled by panic.  Remember the long lines at the gas stations, and the inflated prices, the sudden drop of the stock market and the failing air travel business.

The second origin is a sudden narrowing of our life horizons.  The enemy is now within us:  About Anton Boisen's journey through schizophrenia. The world becomes overpowering, we become acutely aware of our meaninglessness.  We become victimized a second time by being forced -- by ourselves -- to relive and to repeat the horror of the situation over and over and over.  We begin to walk in circles, by wondering is it going to be better tomorrow -- or worse?  This insecurity stuns us, and makes it impossible for us to break out of a circle of panic and confusion.  (Can use own situation with back and forth on the stock market and the interest)

This narrowing of our life horizons of course impacts the manner in which we deal with each other.  Yes, there was a new closeness, when the cashier in the grocery store showed me the fly swatter with which she would get any terrorists who got into her line.  There was a compression of the nation with the feeling it is us against the world -- an imagination resulting from a feeling of being overpowered.  I as a minister had the privilege to meet people that might under usual circumstances not have graced the doors of the church for years to come.  Underneath all this is another terror of the dark night of the soul: interpersonal relationships can be devalued from personal, emotional relations to formal, less meaningful relations. The terror of the dark night of the soul lies in the fact that we feel we are walking the road through the night alone. (remember Boisen)  How many adults have you seen laughing in the days after the attack?  I remember seeing one elderly woman with a bright smile on her face; I remember her for 2 reasons; first her smile warmed me to the depth of my heart, second I cannot recall seeing anybody else laughing freely or smiling warmly since the 11th.

Finally, this narrowing of our life horizons also impacts our values by narrowing them to lower level values.  Our world has suddenly changed from the new openness of the post cold war era (again) to us vs. them.  I am returning here to the beginning when I talk about the old sinful men returning, with vengeance, fear, and greed at heart.

Billy Graham's immediate response to the attacks was: "In times like this we realize how weak and inadequate we are, and our greatest need is to turn in repentance and faith to the God of all mercy and the Father of all comfort. If ever there was a time for us to turn to God and to pray as a nation, it is now, that this evil will spread no further. It is also a time for us to remember the words of the Psalmist: 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ... He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still and know that I am God ... The Lord of hosts is with us.'" (Psalm 46:1-2, 9-11)

Graham put the response to this crisis of the soul very well, with one possible amendment: Let us not say as a nation, but as a people of God.  The dawn in the dark night of the soul comes when we see the cross on the hill top in the midst of a storm that shows the grief of our father in heaven.  It is with Christ that we walk through this dark valley, not one alone, but as a whole the people of God marches through the darkness, and the shepherd walks with us.

It is through laying before God our true feelings and thoughts -- in prayer and in meditation -- that we can break the dangerous circle panic and confusion that may confuse our minds and distract our hearts.  Are you looking for peace then?  I say, listen in your heart and you shall hear your Savior whisper in your ear that you are a beloved child of God, endowed with all the power of  heaven and earth.  How can you other but rejoice and dance before your God with light feet, when you see the sun rise over a valley of scorn and fear.  Can you help but embrace each other and give each other the Holy Kiss of love on the forehead when you know that God self is with you and leading you beyond darkness, beyond fear, beyond anger, beyond loneliness?

The Peace