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SERMON
18 Pentecost - Proper 21
September 30, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
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the 37 years since my ordination – preached a sermon I’d preached before, just as I’d
hear last week’s sermon can find it online at our parish website, and there are a couple
of copies available in the Narthex. There are also copies of the Poem I’ll quote, this
morning, posted in the narthex and in the Undercroft.

I repeat, this morning, as I said last week, I don’t know why I feel so strongly that I need to
do this; I just do.

The occasion was 6 years ago – the two Sundays after the events of September 11, 2001.
We are, unfortunately, one week off in the lectionary, so the lessons I mention in the
sermon are not the ones you’ve just heard, but the ones from last week, and that’s
unfortunate. The most important part of those lessons, however, are actually repeated in
the sermon, so it shouldn’t matter too much; it’s the quote that matters.

So without further ado:


                      A Sermon Preached at
            Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale,
The 16th Sunday after Pentecost, 23 September, 2001

I set myself a rather complex goal in preparing my sermon for this morning. I decided,
first, it needs to be meaningful and appropriate to what has been going on in the country
over the past 12 days or so; second, it needs to fit the lessons, because, regardless of
what may be going on in our world, our purpose, here, is to worship God; and, finally, it
needs to be brief – because we’ve got a busy day, together! We’ll see about that part….

I am thankful for our lectionary, this morning, for both the first and the second goals.
What a wonderful lesson is our Epistle reading, today, especially, and how perfect for this
particular moment in our history.

A terrible thing has happened, not just to our country, but to the world. The events of
September 11th must be responded to: the requirements of justice require it; and the
need in our world for peace require it: that those responsible be brought to justice that
they may no longer commit such atrocities, and that others may not hold to the illusion
that they can do the same – that they can succeed; that they can get away with it.

Fortunately – and naturally – the white-hot anger of the first few days has begun to give
way, now, to a firm resolve, and we find ourselves, as the second week draws to a close,
more carefully and more calmly making plans to exact justice. It is a spirit, an atmosphere,
and a resolve that – if I were the person behind the terrorism – would strike terror in my
own heart.

And in this atmosphere of growing calm and increasing resolve comes The First Letter of
St. Paul to Timothy:

…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for
everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and
peaceable life in all godliness and dignity….

“…so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity….” What a
wonderful prayer! And what a wonderful reminder that in a just society, in a humane
society, in a good society, the object and goal of war cannot be the annihilation of the
enemy, cannot be revenge, cannot be death and destruction, but must always be peace:
“a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” Such Must be our goal.

Yesterday, My daughter, Bettina, downloaded and printed for me, one of my favorite
poems; one that I hadn’t read in a couple of years, and one that I should have been
remembering these past days. It is by a man who some regard as the finest English
speaking poet of the Twentieth Century. He’s certainly the finest Anglican poet! W.H.
Auden was English Born but spent most of his adult life in the United States, for years a
worshipping member of St. Mark’s in the Bouwerie Episcopal Church in New York,
returning home only shortly before he died!

The Poem has a simple title, a date:
September 1, 1939. Some of you recall the significance
of that date. It was the day the armies of the
Third Reich rolled across the Polish border
to begin the long night of the world that would come to be called the Second World War.

It’s a great poem, and eminently quotable. In fact, the best psychological study of the
Hitler phenomenon ever written takes its title from this poem, where Auden refers to him
as “a psychopathic god…”

I wish I could share the whole poem with you, but it’s much too long and too complex.
Just reading it isn’t enough – it has to be studied very carefully, like all great poetry, to
mine all its richness.

But there is one part – just four lines – I do want to share with you, because it says, so
simply and eloquently, one of the things I was trying to say to you last week, something
that is so strongly suggested by the letter to Timothy, and so important for All of us to
remember – and to remind our leaders of – as we prepare for war…

Speaking of the long story of German and European history that produced Hitler – the
psychopathic god – and the terrible mistakes that followed the First World War, Auden
writes,

        I and the public know
        What all schoolchildren learn,
        Those to whom evil is done
        Do evil in return.

Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.

Those who did the horrible deeds of September 11th believe that European society, the
Western World, and particularly the United States have done evil to them. Whether they’
re right or wrong in that belief is irrelevant: they believe it! And so they have done evil in
return!

And now it’s our turn to respond. The question is: in what spirit will we do it? Will we
strike out in anger and hatred? Will our goal be to destroy? Will We render evil for evil?

Or will our goal be justice? Will we act to bring those who are responsible to account?
Will we do what we have to do to end the threat? And will the ultimate hope in all we do
be peace?

What W.H. Auden describes in such deceptively simple terms is a never-ending cycle of
evil eliciting evil. You do evil to me, so I do evil to you, so you do evil to me, so I do… and
on and on and on. But,

        I and the public know
        What all schoolchildren learn,
        Those to whom evil is done
        Do evil in return.

Until someone stops it! Until someone stops the cycle! Says, “enough! I will do evil no
more.”

And if the evil is to end, it is up to us to stop it; up to us to declare we will no longer play
that game. We will not return evil for evil! Up to us to let our leaders know that whatever
it is we must do, our goal Must be justice! That whatever it takes to bring about justice,
our goal Must be Peace. And…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings
be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may l
lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity….”

In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.


                        Click here for the entire poem:
                                  
September 1, 1939
                                         W. H. Auden



Last Week’s Epistle Reading:

1 Timothy 2:1-8

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be
made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a
quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the
sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth. For

there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all

-- this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I
am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire,
then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or
argument.