Sermon – September 16, 2001 – Jesus Seeks the Lost

September 16, 2001

Jesus Seeks the Lost

Last Sunday we gathered here for worship in a completely different time,
where evil was not so evident, and our hearts were not so heavy. That this
has been a harrowing week, full of unspeakable cruelty and almost bottomless
tragedy, a new and shocking manifestation of pure hatred. It has been
exhausting to witness, even out here in the safety of the heartland. I’ve
told some folks in conversations this week that I run to the television like
a crackhead runs to his pusher for more things that only seem to hurt. . It
is a relentless reality of death and destruction, ever more personal as the
names of the dead are read like a litany, a relentless reality of heroism
and unexpected hope, of an anxiousness of what’s next.

We have shared this week that painful vision of the plane hurtling into the
side of the World Trade Center. We have shared that awful vision of the
collapsing buildings. Of the tears of loved ones. And of the dusty,
determined faces of the rescuers. We have shared this vision and it is a
vision forever seared into our consciousness. It will never go away, and
maybe it shouldn’t.

We have shared this week as American people these sounds. . . the roaring
and rumble of the imploding skyscrapers, the gasps of onlookers, the frantic
voices of reporters, the screams of confusion and pain, the angry voices of
radio talk shows, the voices of our leaders speaking of such things as war
and conflict. We have shared these sounds, and they, too, are imprinted
forever on our consciousness, the soundtrack for this wrenching vision of
destruction.

This week has been a brutal and relentless reality.

And the consequences of these things, intended by those who bring them into
reality, by those filled with hate and a love for destruction and death. . .
. the consequences are intended that we would lose hope, that our spirits
would be broken, that our faith would become cold and meaningless. Such is
the purpose of these acts. It is the intention of violence and terrorism
and hatred, to break spirits, undermine hope and faith. It is the intended
consequence of such things that our vision would become narrow with hate and
revenge and more violence and carnage. This is their purpose, and all of
us, we must admit, feel some of such things. Because it is a cruelty, a
tragedy that has no familiar place to land in our consciousness. We don’t
spend a lot of time thinking about how people would target innocent men,
women and children for death in order to make a cruel and evil political
point. It is so hard for us to process, and we do have our hopes shaken
and we do have our faith challenged.

That is because these things, these horrible visions and frightening sounds
and terrible acts bear with them the seeds of their origin, bear with them
the residue of the hate with which they were delivered. As these sounds
and visions come into our consciousness they bear with them the seeds of
hatred and violence from which they were borne. So , hate and revenge and
lust for retribution consequently well up in our hearts, push us to act in
kind, to rend and tear and destroy in our hurt and our anger and our
brokenheartedness our frustration. It would feel so good to hurt someone
back. Eavesdrop on any conversation on the street and you will hear it. . .
The intended consequence of such things is to create by their acts the very
things which gave rise to them, and turn us into hate and destruction and
violence and revenge. That is a grave danger.

Now is the time to remind ourselves once again that such things are not the
currency of God’s kingdom. Such things are not the in the purview of the
fellowship of Christ. It lies with the community of Christ to tend the
borders of our confession, to seek again the core of our faith, to draw
strength and enlightenment and hope from the wellspring of God’s word to us.
For it is there again that we hear the words of hope and the proclamation
of love.

You see, we are called to another vision, a purer. . . a vision that has
been seared into our hearts, a vision that will never leave us. And that
is of a God so loving that he sets aside all things to search out that which
is lost. A God so loving to suffer the pain of loss of His own Son,
killed in his innocence. A God so loving that when one is lost and
misplaced, it is the express divine intention to leave that which is secure
to seek out that which is frightened and alone. That is the vision we
share that is seared into our consciousness through faith, into our
community by the cross of Christ. That the landscape of the faith, the
cross ever rising.

May that be a comfort to us when the vision of the brokenhearted family
member or the collapsing building comes unsolicited into our minds. . .
.that there is one whose love is so strong so personal, that he mourns the
loss of one of His own. And that doesn’t change. There is no power of
evil or hatred or destruction that can change that heart of God, who mourns
the loss of his children. There is no power of evil or hatred or
destruction that can change the heart of God’s people if they hold fast
together to that vision.

We feel, don’t we, that something has been lost among us. Certainly, the
lives of over 5,000 people, the shattering of those families, but also a
sense of our security, our hopefulness. But brothers and sisters, the
Christ who himself suffered death only to defeat it and rise again rose to
seek out that which is lost and return them guides and leads us. Part of
who we are may be misplaced in this time, but God’s promise is always
restoration . . . wholeness and peace. We share that pure vision, that
promise, that hope and it is how we will bear this community, this nation in
this crisis. That is the vision we share as believers and there is no evil
or hatred or destruction that can change the heart of God’s people if we
cling to that vision.

Over against the soundtrack of heartbreak and tragedy we hear today the
sound of the voice of the shepherd, calling, reassuring and comforting,
which says I will find you, seek you out and never leave you. We hear the
sound of voice of the shepherd calling to us even as we drift toward
darkness. The Shepherd is seeking your heart today and mine to bring us
back to the center of love, to begin to heal us as individuals, as a
community as a nation. God intends that for us. God seeks us for that
purpose. Nothing has changed in the heart of God. Hear his words today,
share that vision. God is after us and will heal the people.

That is what God is doing. So what do we do? Don’t we feel a sense of
helplessness? Aren’t we nagged with the need to do something? Of course
we are. That is evident in the outpouring of support for the workers, the
victims, for their families. So much generous giving of money and food and
time and blood and prayers. Already we see the distinct and indelible
outline of hope emerging from the smoke and dust. Already we see the
consequences of hope; sharing and unity, generosity and resolve. People
are seeking the solace of their churches and faith communities, praying for
understanding. Calling on God for comfort and strength. Lifting up their
prayers of intercession and compassion.

Already the seeds of hope are germinating out of the rubble of this terrible
tragedy. And much of that hope is needed. That is what we can do. That
is what we should do. Live from our core, and seek justice without hatred,
love even more, hope more strongly. Care more deeply. And the seeds of
that love will be carried out with our acts and our prayers.

It begins in this place as we comfort one another, express our fear, offer
our consolation, share our hopes. It begins and is sustained in our fervent
prayers for the dead and dying, for their families and for those called to
struggle on the ragged front of this crisis. It begins and is sustained in
your family as you take this opportunity to love your spouse and children,
your mother and your father, your family, more openly. Hope is generated
and sustained in your relationships at work and among your friends when you
let the radical notion of God’s love direct you. Hope is sustained when we
are more forgiving, more faithful, more diligent in prayer, more obedient to
God’s call to love and share. That is what we can do, and it is so much.

The prophet Isaiah proclaims that those who walk in the way of God will find
that “your gloom will be like the noonday, you will be like a watered
garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins
shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations .
. . you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets
to live in.”

That is the power of hope, that is the power of the constancy of faith.
That is the promise of God. This is the hope that the shepherd calls us
to, and is the path restoration and renewal . . . the rebuilding and
sustaining of that which is good. That is what we can do.

Last Sunday when we gathered here for worship we did so in a different time.
This week, so much has changed, but we will not, we cannot, let this
change our notion of God’s purpose and presence and constancy. For there
is no evil, no hatred, no evil that destruction that can change the heart of
God, or the hearts of God’s people if they cling to his vision of love.

May God grant us the wisdom courage and strength to hold fast to that vision
as we begin again another week in Jesus’ name. Amen

Copyright (c) 2001 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus