As one of the thousands of ELCA pastors who struggled to
find words to speak in their September 16 sermons, I found the
scripture texts for that particular Sunday to be challenging but
also profoundly helpful, reminding us we are all sinners dependent
on the infinite mercy of God. That Sunday's gospel parable of the
lost sheep drew me to an eschatological vision of a restored
"flock" after the lost sheep is found - that is, a vision of a
community restored to wholeness. Such a vision can not only speak a
word of hope in the face of a human-caused catastrophe but can also
inform a personal and social ethic in these difficult days. It is,
perhaps, an image that can speak to what God hopes for us in the
left hand and right hand kingdoms, restored relationship between
God and humanity, and restored relationships within God's creation.
What follows are some excerpts from that September 16 sermon
preached at St. John United Lutheran Church in Seattle.
 ". . . The shepherd's work, God's work, is the work of
restoring broken community, and we are called to participate in
that work . . . that is one place for us to start as we grapple
with responding to this horrible act. On the road to restoring
broken community we have to deal with evil and with injustice; we
have to deal with wrongs that have been done, recognizing that
judgment and mercy ultimately belongs not to us but to God. We have
to recognize that some do not want to be in community with us.
Nonetheless, our vision and our hope is that one day the wolf and
the lamb will lie down together. One day all God's people will live
together in harmony and justice. If that is our hope, then it
profoundly affects what we do now in this situation of crisis.
 As individuals and as congregations there are many things we
can say and do to be part of God's work of restoring the flock to
wholeness and well-being. We can reach out to those who are hurting
to show our caring, give aid to those in need, stand up for the
vulnerable including Muslim and Arab minorities in this country,
and acknowledge the humanity of our enemies… As individuals
and congregations, we can work to mend broken relationships and
reach out across the barriers …between religious and ethnic
groups. We are also called to be good citizens, to support the
legitimate efforts of government to protect and defend those who
 But then we get to the harder part. Is this image of the
restored flock, is our conviction that God calls us to be partners
in working to restore broken community, is this at all relevant to
our discussion of what our government should do in this crisis?
Does it have anything to do with making the world safe from
terrorists? If the God that we proclaim is God of all creation, I
would think that it would.
 I don't have easy answers. Yet, I hope our political leaders
can find a way to move forward to address the threat of terrorism
without deepening the divides that have contributed to terrorism in
the first place. I hope they can find a way to move forward in
cooperation with other nations . . . that furthers our common human
goals of justice, peace, security and freedom without insisting on
U.S. dominance in the world arena. I hope we can find a way to move
forward that recognizes the common humanity we share with Muslims,
Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and all religious and ethnic groups. . .
 God has reached out and will continue to reach out to us in
love and mercy - we do not have to be afraid that we may get lost,
because God can find us and bring us back. God weeps when we are
lost, when we are broken - as individuals, as communities, as the
whole human race, and God rejoices when unity is restored. . . .
Let us show our thanks by taking the message of God's love and hope
for the world in to our homes, our neighborhoods, our places of
work, and daily lives. This is what we are called to do in these
days, this is what we can do, by the grace of God. God's
peace be with you. Amen."