This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 innocent people died that Tuesday because 19 men hated the Western World and believed that their God wanted or sanctioned this attack. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article: September 11 Attacks. Many who died were police and firefighters who were trying to rescue as many as possible.
Since then the United States of America has entered 2 wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, over 4,400 US troops have died and nearly 32,000 have been wounded. In 2010 the US military made an estimate of all deaths as a result of the war of “109,032 deaths broken down into "Civilian" (66,081 deaths), "Host Nation" (15,196 deaths),"Enemy" (23,984 deaths), and "Friendly" (3,771 deaths).” (Casualties of the Iraq War)
In Afghanistan, about 1,700 US troops have died and nearly 10,00 have been wounded. 1,000 Coalition forces have died. 1,800 contractors have died. 9,400 Afghan Security Forces have died. 38,000 Taliban and insurgent troops have been killed or captured. Anywhere between 10,560 Afghan civilian have died (BBC News Report). The total for Afghanistan through 2009 is about 24,500 not counting the Taliban (How many died and how many were captured? If half were killed the total would be 43,500 dead.)
Except for the US and Coalition deaths, all of these numbers are somewhat nebulous. Just do a Google search on Iraq or Afghanistan war casualties and you will get the idea. The numbers I have listed above comes to about 133,500 to 152,500. One site puts the death toll for both wars nearly 950,000. Keep these numbers in mind as your read this week’s scriptures.
Exodus 14:19-31 – The Israelites are at the Red (or Reed) Sea with the Egyptian cavalry in hot pursuit. How did the angel of God protect the Israelites? How were the waters parted? Why were the Israelites able to cross but the Egyptians were not? Again, like last week, we confront a texts that portrays God as a God of vengeance and death. How can we struggle with these passages with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ?
Psalm 114 – Can you answer the questions in verses 5 and 6?
Genesis 50:15-21 – This text was chosen to accompany the Matthew text. Who does Joseph forgive? Why? What reason does Joseph give for his forgiveness?
Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 – What is the Old Testament formula for who God is in verse 8? How does God deal with humanity? How far does God take our sins away? How great is God’s love for us?
Romans 14:1-12 – This is the last week of our readings in Romans. How are we to welcome the weak in faith? Who are the “weak in faith” that Paul writes about? What seems to be the quarrel that Paul is addressing in this passage? What issues divide the church today? How are we to treat each other when we have differing convictions? Could those who are strong in faith (they believe that they can eat meat sacrificed to idols and they can work on Sabbath) be compared to those who believe that gays and lesbians can be called to ministry in the church and be able to marry? Could those who are “weak in faith” (they believe that they must still follow the Law by not eating idol meat and not working on Sabbath) be compared to those who still believe that gays and lesbians cannot be called to parish ministry in the church or marry? Does Paul say one side or the other must change their minds? What does Paul say about how we should treat each other?
Matthew 18:21-35 – What is Peter’s question and how does Jesus answer? In the parable, how much does the man owe the king? (if figured at $10 per hour, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year and a talent equals 15 years of labor then 1 talent equals $312,000. Total amount owed is $3,120,000,000) Could the man ever hope to repay the debt? What does the king do for him? How much does the second man owe the first? (A denarii is one day’s wage for a laborer. Total owed is about $8,000.) Note the extreme difference. What does the first man do for the second? What is the reaction of the king? What is Jesus’ conclusion? Do you think he is serious or is Jesus just using hyperbole? If Jesus is serious then we are all in trouble if there is anyone we haven’t forgiven. Is this injunction to forgive applicable only to individuals or can it be applied to nations? How many lives, US-Coalition-Civilians, could have not been taken if the US as a nation and a people responded to 9-11 with forgiveness instead of vengeance?
Forgive me, Lord, for my unforgiving heart. Forgive us, Lord, for the vengeance that wells up within us. Let your Spirit work in all of us to soften our hearts and lead us in the way of forgiveness for others. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor