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"Shock and Awe"

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

March 21, 2003

As the war on Iraq began and we all have had the opportunity to sit on our sofas and watch the fighting, the commentators have warned us that the “shock and awe” campaign had not yet begun. We would know it when we saw it, they told us.

And many wanted to see it.

The text assigned to this third Sunday in Lent by the lectionary becomes the reading for the first Sunday in the War. As we gather here in Spokane this Sunday around John’s account of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, members of Prince of Peace will be missing from their “regular seats.” They’ve been deployed to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and places unknown even to their families. Perhaps the only news they will hear from home are accounts of endless numbers of “No War” protests in all of our major cities.

To those missing from our sanctuary Sunday after Sunday, this news will surely bring shock and awe and much despair.

In John’s Gospel, placement of the whip in Jesus’ hand has become the recognizable portrayal as etched on canvas way back in 1570 in the old El Greco painting entitled, “Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple.” To look upon this work of art causes many “shock and awe.”

How will this story, this picture be used in our pulpits this Sunday? As in the past, many will use it to justify their own actions and anger. Some preachers will take free license to express their positions on the war in Iraq. Many will believe there is a right or wrong answer to our current international situation and will share their wisdom with those in the pew.

As a preacher on each Sunday, I’m concerned about those not in the pew--our many members ordered to the desert ilderness.

Our Lutheran tradition surely does not lead us to any belief in “Holy War,” yet it does not confess “Holy Unwar.”

We are neither warmongers nor pacifists. We don’t confess that we can establish or usher in the peaceful Kingdom of God here on earth, neither do we confess that we should never engage in military action. We, as Lutheran Christians, are caught in between. On this front there are no easy answers; no ‘right’ answers.

No preacher from a pulpit, no presiding bishop, no politician can claim absolute wisdom on our current situation.

They cannot speak for you.

Read the Word, pray and discern. When asked to share your views with your neighbors, just remember the neighbors that are not home. Remember all those who will not be in their regular seat this Sunday. It is there that I want to see them again.

Instead of endless hours spent watching the war in front of a television screen let us engage in endless hours of prayer. Engage in support of their separated families until their safe return.

When news of this supportive activity at home reaches them let there be the kind of shock and awe that will sustain them during these uncertain times.