Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht smashed across the Polish frontier, igniting World War II and crushing the last hopes for peace in a dissolute West that had bargained away its soul in deal after deal with the devil. In his great poem “September 1, 1939” W.H. Auden laments as “the clever hopes expire/Of a low dishonest decade” and the “unmentionable odour of death/Offends the September night.” He tells us “Accurate scholarship can/Unearth the whole offence” but then goes on to insist that the origins of the war that is engulfing Europe lie in things both simple and yet too mysterious to fathom. On the one hand, it is all childishly obvious: “all schoolchildren learn,/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.” Yet still even children get lost: “Lost in a haunted wood,/Children afraid of the night/Who have never been happy or good.” Somehow, on that terrible day, we awoke to discover that we had failed to see the obvious, to do what any fool knows is right, to be happy and good. We had sinned and disastrously failed to learn that “We must love one another or die.” And now destruction was at the door. Jeremiah lived through similar times and spoke similar words to Israel. We live in similar times. “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!” He is gracious and merciful if we will only repent.