Our country seems caught in turmoil; people have chosen sides and cling to their positions adamantly, sometimes violently.

We have recently experienced several natural disasters that have silenced the angry voices momentarily: fire in the Pacific Northwest, earthquakes in Mexico and Virginia, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. People affected by those disasters are not tearing each other down, they are devastated, many of them losing all they held dear. They need the help of those of us standing around, pointing fingers at each other. Even if that help is only to be kinder to our family members, kinder to our beloved partner, kinder to our friends and neighbors, the contagion of peace will reach them eventually. Those of us who are not suffering can say the prayers, find the twenty dollars, make the drive, buy the diapers and drop them off. All of these forms of help are needed.

In the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, "we are all fighting a hard battle." We are afraid of different things, but most of us are deeply afraid of something. When our fears are amplified and exaggerated, they control us. If we make the effort to put down our weapons and get quiet, allowing something greater than ourselves to speak into our silence, that overwhelming emotional response can be calmed. We can function again, lovingly and logically, seeing that even our perceived enemies are acting on the best information they have at the moment, colored by fear. We must look to ourselves, deciding our response instead of our reaction.

Jesus often removed himself from everything and went off into nature to be quiet, to listen to a voice not his own. When he returned to his friends, he knew what needed to be said and done. We might greatly benefit from following his lead more regularly than for a few minutes on Sunday.

Shalom.