(Monroe, LA)


Tuesday, September 11, 2001


 Pastoral Words of Consolation & Hope

Dr. JoAnne C. Juett


          Ironically, today, September 11 was to begin a celebration of the Culture of Peace Week at the United Nations.  Each year, in the opening assembly of the UN a minute of silence for peace is traditionally observed to give positive evidence of a "commitment to peace in all its viable ways."  Today, we have witnessed the evidence of hatred and evil, as it rears its ugly and deformed head out of the sordid depths of the human condition, to wreak havoc and destruction upon innocent and unassuming people.  We can hear the words of FDR echoing through the waves of our emotions today, as he spoke to a nation shocked by the events at Pearl Harbor of a ?day that would live in infamy.?  So, too, September 11, 2001, a day marked for hopeful celebrations of peace, has now become another day of infamy as we have with tortured minds and hearts watched buildings collapse and thousands of lives disintegrated, all for an end we cannot fathom and would never seek even if we could understand.

          Today, we cry out, a deep and inner cry of pain and grief for our nation, a place where we have felt so safe and secure, which is now invaded, showing gaping wounds of assault.  We weep for the loss of lives, for families whose lives have been turned upside down in the seconds of brutal impact and explosion.  We mourn for the loss of all the hopes and dreams, which, with the smoke and debris, have been scattered asunder, lost to this world. 

          In our grief we are reminded of our Hebrew sisters and brothers, who through Moses while in Egypt questioned the presence of God, asking why God had mistreated them and done nothing to deliver them.  We are reminded of the plea of the psalmist in Psalm 13:  ?How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me??  We are reminded of the words of Jesus, who upon the cross called out to God, asking why God had forsaken him. 

          In our mourning, we are reminded that daily cries of grief, abandonment, fear and hopelessness surround us.  They arise from the streets of middle eastern cities, from the highways of Nigeria and Sudan, from the refugee camps in Eastern Europe and Africa, from our own inner city neighborhoods, and from each of our own hearts as we empathize with the loss and devastation that is difficult to comprehend among individuals, let alone among whole warring tribes of people.

          Today?s events call us to think again about our own priorities.  How many people board planes and trains or entered buildings and offices today, never thinking that such a tragedy would or could occur?  What then becomes important to us, when we fully recognize what could happen in the blink of an eye to any of us?  Things that we own, accomplishments of which we can boast, trophies, either real or metamorphic, are of trivial consequence in the light of today?s events.  Who we are, whom we love, and who we share a meaningful existence with, are the important aspects of our lives.  Living in and with the presence of God, fully aware that everything comes from God and absolutely grateful for all of our gifts, so much so that our lives are full to overflowing with true justice, mercy, forgiveness and love?these things are the only aspects of our lives that count for anything at all.  In a paraphrase of Paul, we can count our lives but lost so that we might truly know God. 

          Knowing God, that is the true essence of hope that pervades the lives of those committed to God?s purpose on earth.  It is difficult at best to know God?s purpose, but it is a bleak prospect in the midst of the evil that erupted today.  Yet, in the darkest moments, God is there.  In the most troubling times of humanity, individually and corporately, God does not abandon us.  In our weakness, we may be tempted to give up, but God has promised us a peace that passes all of our understanding.  God has promised us a strength that overcomes the most debilitating of circumstances.  God has promised us a grace that triumphs over the most tragic, evil and painful deeds.

          We cannot understand evil, nor can we often withstand it.  Yet, God is a good God, giving us succor in the face of adversity and hope in the face of calamity and disaster.  We cannot use the tragic events of today to explain the will of God, to calculate the finality of this world or any other, or to judge the actions of any other child of God.  Today is the finest and most horrific example of our humanity, in its rawest and coarsest form.  And, today is the time for all of us, who believe in the goodness and love of God with the very depth of being to reach out with all of our love to those who so desperately need our solace and to help the world see that evil will never triumph, only the steadfast love of God.  Moses sang these immortal words to the God who rescued the chosen people, and I remind us of them yet again today:  ?The Lord is my strength and my might, and God has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise the Lord.  The Lord will reign forever and ever.?  Amen.


Prayers of the People

JoAnne C. Juett


For the peace from above, for the loving kindness and constant presence of God, and for the comfort of our hurting souls, let us pray to God.

For a way to find and keep peace in this troubled world and for the unity of a distrustful and destructive humanity, let us pray to God.

For the leaders of our nation, who although filled with grief, must guide us thoughtfully and wisely toward reconciliation, let us pray to God.

For all of us who in our hurting want retribution, yet in our souls long for peace, let us pray to God.

For those whose present loss and grief knows no bounds and feels no possibility of succor, let us pray to God.

For those whose hatred has blinded them to the precious value of human life and whose misguided sense of justice has led them to unmerciful acts, let us pray to God.

Grant us your grace, O God, that we through our own experience of forgiveness will be empowered to forgive others.

For deliverance from all danger and violence and from our well-founded, but heart-wrenching fears of what might still lie ahead, let us pray to God.

In all of our sadness, O God, let us not forget that you are also the source of our strength and our joy.  You alone are our hope and in you alone do we place our faith.  Deliver us from our fears, defend us from our enemies, hold us close in our mourning, and bring us to a unity of all your people whose love knows no end and hope abounds.

Shalom and Amen.

Pastoral Words of Encouragement

Dr. C. Welton Gaddy

     Thank you for gathering.  And thank you for praying.  There is no where else I would rather be than to be with you right now.  However, while you are meeting, I will be speaking to an Interfaith gathering in Denver and trying to offer helpful suggestions for properly responding to the tragedies that we have witnessed today.

    I want to convey to you a part of what I plan to address more fully this evening and likely on next Sunday morning.

Please refrain from a rush to judgment regarding the perpetrator of this deadly violence.  Specifically, I encourage you not to hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of a few fundamentalists Muslims, if indeed, these were the people involved.  We would not want all Christians held accountable for the dastardly deeds from time to time inflicted upon society by a few Christians.

Secondly, please do not give up on freedom.  Scared people in search of security are often willing to forfeit even the most basic liberties.  Our response to today?s evil violence must not be of a nature that reduces our essential character as a nation.

Thirdly, please continue your prayers.  Thankfully, members of the extended family of Northminster seem to be safe?I think I have heard about most all who may have been in harm?s way today.  But, many, many people are hurting and far more are stricken with grief.  These people need our prayers and anything more that eventually we can offer.

It is enough that enemies of our land have destroyed some of our buildings and many of our citizens? lives.  We must not let these enemies blast holes in our souls, alter our commitment to freedom, destroy our appreciation for diversity, and break our spirits.

Let us, as a community of faith, be a voice of reason, a community of compassion, and an advocate for peace even as a family of faith at prayer.