- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Dean J. Snyder at Foundry United Methodist Church in the District.
The month after September 11 was busy for many of us, and I found little time for reflection. But as things slowed down, I began to have strange thoughts and feelings. When Iying in bed in my Capitol Hill home, I would hear a noise outside and imagine it was a bomb. Driving to work in Columbia, I imagined that if a nuclear fireball exploded in Washington, I could not drive fast enough to escape.
On September 11, I watched live on CNN people jumping from the World Trade [Center] towers. They faced death by burning or another moment of life by leaping into the air. That thought can enter my mind in the elevator of a tall building.
What I want to be clear about is this: When we commemorate September 11, our greatest concern is for those who lost their loved ones. In our United Methodist conference, Julianah Cooper was born six months after her father died at the Pentagon. Four-year-old Stephen Young's father was on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
We pray for them most of all. The pain and the grief does not go away in a year. Members of Foundry lost loved ones, as well. Our pain is secondary to theirs. Then, we also want to remember those who remind [us] of suffering and terror across the face of the earth. People in the Middle East have lived in fear of violence day in and day out.
During the Rwanda genocide, which received little news coverage, 30,000 people were slaughtered on some days. Imagine the terror going on in the world in our lifetime. A pastor I know from Sierra Leone showed me pictures of children whose arms and legs were cut off by machetes so they could never join an uprising against the government.
People face terror all over the earth, and we need to be aware of that. On September 12, I ran into a United Methodist missionary home on furlough, and she began to tell me how much people elsewhere suffer as a result of U.S. policy and business. I thanked her, but said bluntly that I just couldn't listen to her today.
But she is absolutely right. We are among the most affluent elite of the world and are responsible for great suffering. Our remembrance of September 11 should not numb us to the vast numbers of people around the world who live in violence and terror every day. Even those untreated for AIDS experience a form of terror.
Still, having said all that, there are nights I still image great violence on Capitol Hill. I want to bring this anxiety and fear that we live with into the presence of God this morning.
Our reading from I John [4:12-18] is the most famous passage in Scripture about fear: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." That strikes me as a strange way to talk about fear. If I had been assigned to write the Bible, I might have said, "Faith casts out fear." If we believe in a God who controls the universe and eternity, our fear is gone. But that's not what 1 John says: "Love casts out fear."
Abiding in God's love casts out fear. And loving one another casts out fear, for, as 1 John also says, "he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." Fear is overcome by accepting God's love and loving one another.
In our tradition we have the John Wesley "quadrilateral," or four ways to know God: by Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. We often put experience at the bottom of the list. We treat religious and mystical experience, or the love and presence of God, as if they were a little strange. If you talk about them, people may think you are strange for actually experiencing the presence of God. But I think this is the great need in our hearts today and this week: to know the presence of God.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Campbell Gillon at Georgetown Presbyterian Church in the District.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide