I mulled over this post for weeks after I read the excellent article “The Sermon of the Wolf” by Eleanor Parker in the Summer 2022 issue of the Plough Quarterly.  What encouraged me to complete the story was an article I read this morning – “The 1977 White House climate memo that should have changed the world” – in The Guardian.  The ‘climate memo’ story angered me, and I sent an email to a handful of friends whom I am comfortable sharing my frustration with.

“As a nation, our attention is always distracted,” I wrote.  “With an environmental catastrophe staring us in the face, a war in Europe, and millions of people starving around the world – to name a few – I must search for meaningful stories about important things whose resolution is crucial to the survival of the planet while the ‘press’ and media direct my attention to Johnny Depp, Blowhard Donald Trump and the January 6th debacle, transgenderism – to name a few – none of which has anything to do with anything that will make the world better today or 50 years in the future.  Time for America – and the world – to pull its collective head out.”

One trusted friend replied, “The world we grew up in is vanishing.  The biological diversity, the pristine environment, even the snow, the birds and fish are disappearing. Add the melting ice caps and the resulting newly released tundra CO2 as an accelerant, and our grandkids world will be diminished beyond our recognition.  Bottom line – too many ravenous humans on too small a world.”

Having shared my anger with a small group of trusted friends, I can push my frustrations aside and get back to the point…

Mrs. tVM and I do not agree on every issue.  It generally comes down to our political perspectives.  Despite our disagreements, we do not shy away from discussing important issues and sharing our feelings.  Occasionally, the temperature rises.  Regardless of our disagreement, within a week we’ll celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.  We have not allowed our different perspectives to encroach upon the love and friendship that has held us together for so many years.

Thinking about our discussions, I’m drawn to Matthew McConaughey’s recent statement at the White House as he pleaded for compromise on gun control measures.  The biggest hurdle in passing these gun laws, he said according to the New York Post, is the public perception that [the public is] drastically politically divided, which he believes is a misconception purported by the media for entertainment.

“I think we’re being told we’re more divided than we are. Quit drinking the Kool-Aid because we’re hearing it from both sides — the extreme right and the extreme left, and they have the microphones,” he said.  Mr. McConaughey is correct, and Mrs. tVM and I are able to see through the media façade that threatens all men and women of good will.

If the media claims to speak for society, Mrs. tVM and I agree on this issue, which we perceive as the core issue:  ‘society/media’ seeks to distance the individual from God.

President Eisenhower signed legislation in 1956 that declared “In God We Trust” to be the national motto.  The question is: do we really trust in God?

The climate crisis, Covid-19, and Ukraine War are among the many issues we face that raise the word ‘apocalypse’ in our consciousness.

At the turn of the previous millennium – 1000 A.D. – England faced its apocalyptic vision as the island had endured nearly 300 years of savage attacks by the Vikings.  Though there is no written evidence of the phrase, “A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine, … From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord” was the ruling sentiment of the times and voiced in prayer throughout medieval Europe.  During those fearful times, Wulfstan was the Archbishop of York.

Wulfstan is best known for his Sermo Lupi, “Sermon of the Wulf,” which he delivered in 1014 A.D.  In his sermon – you can read the full text here – Wulfstan berates his countrymen for turning away from God and states that “… a great breach of law shall neces­sitate a great remedy, and a great fire shall necessitate much water, if that fire is to be quenched.”  While I encourage you to visit the link and read the complete sermon (or listen to it here), I offer these excerpts that will give you a good understanding of it…

In heathen lands...
“In heathen lands one does not dare withhold little nor much of that which is appointed to the worship of false gods; and we withhold everywhere God’s dues all too often.”
The laws of God...
“And in short, the laws of God are hated and his teaching despised; therefore we all are fre¬quent¬ly disgraced through God’s anger… And that loss will be¬come universal, although one may not think so, to all these people, unless God protects us. Therefore it is clear and well seen in all of us that we have previously more often trans¬gressed than we have amended.”
Nothing has prospered...
“No¬thing has prospered now for a long time either at home or abroad… and excessive taxes have afflicted us, and storms have very often caused failure of crops…”
Many misfortunes befall this nation...
“And many mis¬fortunes befall this nation time and again: things have not prospered now for a long time neither at home nor abroad, but there has been destruction and hate in every district time and again, and the English have been entirely defeated for a long time now, and very truly disheartened through the anger of God.”
Men are ashamed...
“… men are more ashamed now of good deeds than of misdeeds; because too often good deeds are abused with derision and the Godfearing are blamed entirely too much, and especially are men reproached and all too often greeted with contempt who love right and have fear of God to any extent. … they are never ashamed though they sin greatly and commit wrongs even against God himself.”
This wretched, corrupt nation...
“… we are greatly ashamed to begin the remedy just as the books teach, and that is evident in this wretched and corrupt nation.”

Despite Wulfstan’s justifiable finger-pointing, he concludes his sermon in a hopeful way…

“… there is a great need for us to take thought for ourselves, and to intercede eagerly with God himself. And let us do as is necessary for us, turn towards the right and to some extent abandon wrong-doing, and eager­ly atone for what we previously transgressed; and let us love God and follow God’s laws, and carry out well that which we promised…”

As I read and listened to Wulfstan’s sermon, I noted similarities between the archbishop’s perception of his first-millennium world and what we face today in the early years of this second millennium.  Today, as in Wulfstan’s world, it is time for us to turn back to God and do what is right.

As we’ve written before on this website, it is in our DNA to do the right thing.  We are all born with free will and are faced with choices and decisions every day of our lives.  I contend that we are more apt to make the right choices if we take the time to discuss them with God first.  As Wulfstan told his world,

“There is a great need for us to take thought for ourselves, and to intercede eagerly with God himself.”

Mitakuye Oyasin

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  1. Great message, Gene. I have been impressed with King David’s practice of consulting with God first before taking action. We humans have that order reversed. God also promised the Israel nation that if they repent and obey God, He will heal their land. When I see all the chaos and violence in the land, I have questioned if God truly is in control. My problem has been that I trust myself and my own opinion and don’t trust God. It is very important to have a rock solid conviction that God is in control and we can trust Him. Proverbs 3:5,6