Vengeance Is the Lord's

There is something in me, too, that wants to 'bomb the hell out of them.' But the gospel tells us not to repay evil for evil.

September 16, 2001

Jeremiah 9:17-24; Romans 12:9-21

Friends, I must admit that this is one of the most difficult days I have ever had to stand before you.

The days since the terrorist attacks on Tuesday have been horrible for all of us. Tuesday and Wednesday, many of us experienced a sensation of having been kicked in the stomach-a very common reaction to sudden loss and/or betrayal. Personally, it was hard to eat, sleep or concentrate. By Thursday, I felt like I was walking around in a cloud of lethargy and depression. On Friday, I fell asleep twice. And I was not affected by personal loss in this tragedy. Imagine the state of those who have lost parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends and co-workers.

The only times this week when the load of grief and sorrow has lifted for me has been when listening to words of scripture. The words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" were certainly written by someone who knew the experience of having your known world collapse.

Today, we hear Jeremiah say, "death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares . . . human corpses shall fall like dung upon the open field . . . and no one shall gather them."

We know that experience. New York City and Washington, D.C., are our Zions, our "holy cities." For better or for worse, they represent the heart and soul of America. They are our alabaster cities gleaming; they contain our temples of honor and history. And they have been struck with a deadly vengeance that has resulted in horrific images that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

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And Jeremiah says, "call for the mourning women to come . . . let them quickly raise a dirge over us so that our eyes may run down with tears . . . For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion: `How we are ruined!'"

We, like the people of Israel suffering the destruction of their homeland, cry and weep and sing dirges. And while we are not completely ruined, we will never be the same. We have been terribly, grievously hurt-each and every one of us. We have lost not only lives, we have lost, irrevocably, I think, our innocence and our sense of invulnerability. We have lost our carefully constructed cushion and padding that has protected us from the reality of violence that is the daily fare of so many in the world.

We need to wail and mourn. Bring in the professionals to help us do it. We need to cry and yell and scream because all of those feelings are normal and appropriate. It is horrifying. It is tragic. It is terribly unfair.

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