Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In God We Trust? (Part 1)

In earlier posts I presented the sermon I gave on the Sunday after 9/11/01. On 9/11/11, the tenth anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11/01, I gave a sermon that I’d like to share with you. I hope this sermon helps you in some way:

I. Introduction

I remember my parents talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor. They would say how they vividly remembered where they were and what they were doing when they received news of the attack. I thought that was strange, and then the Kennedy assassination happened. Then I understood – these were defining events whose details are etched in your memory for the rest of your life. The same thing happened on 9/11 – I clearly remember everything about that terrible morning, as I’m sure you do.

II. Emotions of the Day

1. Feelings of Hopelessness

Besides clearly remembering the events, I also recall my range of emotions. I went from surprise to shock to sadness to anger to feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness, as I’m sure most people did. In a matter of minutes, the world as we knew it had changed drastically. Our sense of security, false as it was, was shattered.

2. Pearl Harbor Comparison

Coincidentally, the attack on 9/11 happened a few months short of the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the case of Pearl Harbor, terrible as it was, the attack was a military operation with a strategic objective, plus there was a clear enemy – Japan. With terrorism, civilians are targeted and there’s no strategic objective. How can you prevent attacks by fanatics willing to die on suicide missions? As a result, we have a sense of frustration, helplessness, and even hopelessness when it comes to terrorist threats. In the face of terrorism, as well as crime, economic downturns, personal loss, and natural disasters, we often feel helpless and hopeless.

III. Various Disasters

1. Jeremiah’s Feelings

This morning we read from the Book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Jeremiah 2,600 years ago. His beloved city of Jerusalem had been completely destroyed by the Babylonians, and the world as he knew it had come to an end. Even God’s beautiful temple, built by King Solomon, was leveled by the enemy, and the sacred temple vessels were taken to a pagan land. Even in translation from an ancient language, his emotions come through.

On 9/11 and the days following, I could identify with how Jeremiah felt. In that next Sunday’s service following 9/11, I used passages from Lamentations as the Scripture reading because they seemed appropriate. Although a whole city had not been destroyed in 9/11, a major landmark had been, plus nearly 3,000 innocent lives were needlessly lost. Some of those lost were co-workers of mine, so it was very personal.

Life as we knew it had been changed forever, and I think we learned that safety in this world is really an illusion. Obviously we must do everything we can to protect ourselves against attacks, including putting up with some inconveniences at the airport. But thanks be to God, we haven’t had another attack on American soil since 2001.

3. Other Tragedies

a. Natural Disasters

Sadly, though, we’ve had some devastating natural disasters.

I mention natural disasters because the destruction from Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee is still fresh on our minds. With the stream next to the parsonage overflowing during Irene, we were concerned as we watched the water creeping ever closer to the parsonage. Although we didn’t get any water in the house, I can sympathize with those who did – we came close!

b. Uncertainty about the Future

Even as 9/11 fades into a 10 year old memory, there’s still tremendous uncertainty about the future: uncertainty about the country, the economy, our personal situations, and where the next natural disaster will strike. Many people I talk to are pessimistic and have feelings of fear and hopelessness, because things seem to be going from bad to worse.

More in a future post.

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