20 July 2014: The Second Sermon, “Casualties of War.”

Text: Romans 8:18-25 (in italics in sermon text)

Good morning.

My heart is heavy this morning.  It’s heavy because if you’ve been paying attention on the news, you may have noticed what’s going on halfway across the world – in Israel.  The long conflict between Hamas, the Palestinian extremist group, and the government of Israel, has escalated, and they are now lobbing rockets and bullets at each other.

Let me just say this: Whatever side you want to take, and for whatever reason….I’ll leave that to you to decide, and I’ll respect that.  I’m not here to sway your opinion, not that I could anyway.  What I want to do is basically tell you why my heart is heavy.

I spent 2 weeks in Israel in 2010, doing a study trip for seminary.  It was one of those life-changing experiences for me, on multiple levels.  But I fell in love with the country, its diverse landscapes, its rich history, and its diverse people……and it’s the people who are on my mind.

Not Hamas, not the government of Israel.  People, ordinary people like you and I, who one moment are going about their day just like you and I would, and now don’t enjoy the luxury – yes the luxury – of approaching life like that.  Instead, they listen for sirens warning of attack.  They watch the skies for rockets.  They watch the streets for weapons and troops on either side.  They stay awake at night, wondering if someone is going to come into their home and threaten their security and safety.  These are the people on my mind.

You probably wonder – like I have at points in my life – why we should care about what’s happening on the other side of the world.  It doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t affect our country, our lives.  And you know what?  I’ll give you that.  I’ll give you that because I on some levels think the same exact way.  It is on the other side of the world.  Those people…all they do is war and fight anyway.  Been doing so for ages.

“For creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from this bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Those people on my mind….they weren’t subjected to the violence and suffering of war by their own accord. Rather, it was by those who imposed this on them.  (I realize I might be prooftexting here….but that’s what came to my mind as a read the text) And I think, today, we share much the same sentiment, even though the context is different.

These….these who suffer are the children of God, just like us.  These, these who are casualties of war, caught in the middle….our brothers and sisters on this little globe we call the earth – an earth God created, redeemed and loved in Christ, and sustains that life through the Holy Spirit.

Casualties of War….I want to go back to that for a second.  These people, caught in the middle, people like you and I….we call them “casualties of War.”  The death of the 300 people in Gaza today – and that number is rising – we simply call a “casualty.”  An unfortunate by-product.  An unfortunate cost in whatever moral or ethical mindset you take on war – “the greater good” or “the ends justify the means.”

But again, these are human beings – flesh and blood just like ourselves, created and loved by God, our brothers and sisters half way across the world.  And I hope that revelation means something to you, it makes you feel something….I hope those words did something to you, and in you.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved.”

Maybe that’s what the world needs to be doing right now.  Groaning.  Groaning because in one small part of the world, fellow human beings are casualties of war.  We groan to remind those powers that be that they’re not numbers, by-products, an acceptable cost to their violent agenda.  We groan collectively not only for them, but for ourselves as well….because we know these freedoms we have in this country are a privilege not all enjoy as we’ve heard today.

But we also groan in prayer to the One we know that hears our cries, and will bring about a hope, and end to such madness as war.  In prayer we cry to God to continually remember God’s promise to redeem humanity from those forces of evil….and from broken humanity itself.  We pray.  We hope.  And may God work in those who begin such wars and violence…..the recollection that they themselves are human, just like those they kill – enemy and bystander – and find hope that brings peace in such places, brings peace to our brothers and sisters….and brings peace to us as well.  Amen.



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