9-11 Followup

“I’m Just Saying…”

Recently founds some old PC files from 2001 – following the events of September 11th.  The first was a sermon preached on a Wednesday night following the Tuesday attack.  You can read that here:

This sermon/reflection was published that same day to over 200 friends on a email list I managed.  Several of these people have large lists to which they published – the largest being an online marketer in Australia who sent the message to his combined lists of over 600,000 people.  Nearly 1,000,000 million people had received this sermon.  Within a few days, I have 80 or so responses.  Within a month, over 3000 people had relied.

The following Sunday I stood behind the pulpit again at the Red Bank Baptist Church.  The message for that day is published below and contains several of the more immediate responses I received.

I know these events happened more than nine years ago.  Still, we’ve been at war all these years.  When you add to that the economic challenges we face, the efforts of many to scapegoat our problems, and the exceptional ugliness of the political season, it seems to me that these two messages (and the comments quoted from many friends from ar0und the world) are exceptionally meaningful – to me, at least. 

At this moment, none of us can know the impact the events of that date will have on our lives, our families, our careers, the economy, our country and the world. We do know that those who lost loved ones in this brutal, murderous expression of senseless rage are devastated and need our prayers.

As our hearts absorb the impact of the tragic events in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 we are stunned by the magnitude of evil, pain and suffering that has literally crashed though the sense of peace and safety we have enjoyed for so long in this country.

Our hearts and our prayers are with those who are lost or suffering and for their loved ones.

We pray for the survivors of this attack.

We pray for the families who have lost loved ones.

We pray for the rescue workers and police on the scene.

We pray for the doctors and nurses caring for the hurting.

We pray for the media outlets that bring us the news.

We pray for the President and other elected leaders.

We pray for the pastors and other spiritual caregivers.

We pray for those who gather intelligence.

We pray for our military personal who will certain be called to action.

We pray for the repentance of our enemies.

We pray that this event will bring us together and turn our thoughts toward God.

The last time we gathered in this place, I preached a message reflecting on Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount.  That evening I sent my sermon to an email list of about 200 people–Christian friends and acquaintances around the world.  It has since been distributed to over 1,000,000 plus people on various other lists managed by some friends. 

To date, I have received over 80 responses.  Let me share of these with you.

From a Roman Catholic Nun named Victoria, I got these comments:

“Rest assured that nationwide people have come together for the crisis at hand.  I have yet to hear word of the whereabouts of one of my college friends whom works in the World Trade Center.  This morning, as I was preparing myself to go to church, I listened to the news – and I listened – and I listened. My heart is broken.”

Mary from Ireland writes

“I read your sermon and can only say we here in Ireland are shocked beyond belief over this, your country’s darkest hour. Our sincere, sincere prayers are for you all, each and every one. Numbness cannot describe how we feel. Living with a situation like this for over 30 years never prepares one for it even when it happens. Even tho’ we are in Galway at least 100 miles from the trouble in the North – still we feel every bomb and every death or injury.”

Steve from England writes:

“I am weeping as I write this 3000 miles from the scene, here in Bristol, England. We are more used to terrorist acts of mindless violence here, but nothing could have prepared us for the scale of this. Work, in our office at any rate, stopped as we gazed, uncomprehending and numb with shock, at the TV.”

Lianne from South Africa writes:

“Even though I live in South Africa and am nowhere near these atrocities taking place, my thoughts and prayers are with the American people this day.  We have full coverage through CNN of what is happening in your country, and I have family living in Chicago.”

Susan from the UK writes:

“I sympathize with all Americans we are all people living on this small planet. What happened yesterday in New York and Washington was pure hatred and I only hope that those who run America do not retaliate in hatred, but find the right ones to punish (if that’s the word). My sympathies are with all of you at this time God bless America.”

Patrick, a Presbyterian Youth Minister in Singapore writes:

“In Singapore, we are getting live news about it, every hour. It’s a tragedy that not only affecting the U.S. people, but even Singaporeans like me and many others are dazed by it.”

Japal, a Muslim in Egypt, writes:

“This is the most horrific and shameful act of terrorism. And anyone who does this and takes pride in doing or helping others killing people must be condemned and penalized.  I think what we need to do is offer help in whatever way we can. I personally am with all the Americans at this time of tragedy.”

Lowden from Nova Scotia wrote to say:

“I drive a school bus here in Truro, Nova Scotia and I have been on stand by since after school 5.5 hours ago. My supervisor just called to say they need our buses to transport travelers who were diverted to the Halifax International Airport. Over 50 planes have landed there with all their passengers who were heading for your country from overseas. So I will read your message to these people as we take them to their accommodations.  We must seem like a long ways away but we are affected too.”

Renaldo from New York City wrote:

“Walking around Broadway, way back when, I saw the development of The World Trade Center.  The joyous times spent in the Plaza, the meetings, seminars I participated in…The gentle walks in Battery Park. Sitting on a park bench looking at the Statue of Liberty as the ships went by…the scent of salt water at the New York Harbor. Taking the ferry to Ellis Island.  Gone.

Today as countless people watched in horror The World Trade Center, thousands of innocent people and a rich skyline were killed. Gone!

Today they killed something in all of us.  There is a gaping hole in my heart and I can’t stop weeping.”

Patrick from Northern Virginia writes:

“Hi Bill, it’s your Brother Pat from across the bay. It truly is a sad day for our country. My job is to shuttle passengers back and forth to Reagan, BWI and Duelles. I just dropped a young lady off at BWI and was on my way back when the attack occurred. I was listening to the news for two hours on the way back.”

Why do I share these emails?

To let you know that we are not alone in our shock, grief, and fear.  The images we have seen shock our sensibilities.  They also shock the sensibilities of freedom and justice loving people around the world–even many those who are of the Muslim religion.

There is no denying the fact that America lost something Tuesday morning.

We’ve lost some of the innocence that living in a land of peace has afforded us–innocence denied to so many others in the world who experience the terror of war as a part of their normal daily lives. The premeditated and despicable actions of those that planned and carried out this attack have redefined and broadened our understanding of shame and contempt. As the result of yesterday’s events, the people of the United States now know more about hatred and evil than we ever wanted to know.

That said, I think it is also important that we realize that the world is not more evil or less safe than it was two days ago. That which has happened has been in the heart of man since the first man lost sight of God’s love.  What happened on Tuesday is that this evil has simply made itself more apparent to our national and personal consciousness.

Here’s what we really lost on Tuesday.  We lost the illusion of safety.  We had built so much of our identity as a people around the idea that we were, as a country, somehow removed or immune from this kind of event.  Our military might was too strong.  Our intelligence community was to superior.  It reminds me of what the Psalmist said:  “Some trust in Chariots, others in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Yes, our illusion of safety has been forever shattered.  It was an illusion that we could ever draw our identity from our flag, our monuments, our military might, or anything else.  If there is some sort of good that can possibly be gleaned from this evil, it is that in this vacuum of security, perhaps we might be drawn to the one true source of security in which we can place our trust and know that it will not fail.

We can learn to depend on God! 

We can learn to get our identity from Him.

Additionally this will be a time when many are tempted to forget the great work of God’s grace that has been plainly revealed in Jesus Christ. In ignorance, they will fear that these events are the judgment of God and His wrath against our nation. I have not read the comments from those who email me saying exactly this.  They told me clearly that these actions were a sign of God’s judgement.  But these comments are not reserved to a few with an email account.  The fact is that several “famous TV preachers” (even one as close to us as Virginia Beach) has made this claim.

As the echo of such comments begin to reverberate across the religious landscape, let us now more than ever be bold in our confidence in the confession of our faith. The Son of God has chosen to take upon himself, in His body, all of the Father’s contempt for sin.  These tragic events could distract us from the promise that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.  Once again we need to find our identity not in the fear that we are being judged, but in the faith that we are people whom Grace has blessed.

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul:  “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). 

In the world were nothing seems to make sense, we need to remember that our God is not shaken by the events of this world.  The World Trade Center may buckle and fall, but our God is our “Rock of Ages” in whom we can rest. In Christ we have peace. Now is the time for those of us who know peace to manifest it all around the world.  We have experienced both the corruption and the frailty of humanity.  Now, perhaps, we can see that God’s grace is greater than all that.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:6-7).

As children who are the light of His glory, what is it that the Spirit of Jesus might be prompting us to do?

First I think that we ought to thank God that you and, hopefully, your families are indirect and not direct victims of this despicable act.

Next, I think that the Spirit of Jesus might be moving many of us to make financial contributions to help bring relief.  You might want to make a donation to Red Cross and/or other relief organizations. 

Third, if you are able and you haven’t done so, perhaps Jesus might be leading you to give the most precious gift of all–that of your blood.  If you haven’t done so already, call the hospital and inquire about donating blood.

Fourth, respond to the tragedy by redirecting your life toward abiding in Christ.  The kinds of problems and issue that issues like this reveal cannot be address by our own strength.  Our FLESH does not have the strength and resources to respond–but Jesus does.  I learned that I can’t be a better person, but God can be a better person through me. 

Fifth, make a “gratitude” list of those people for which you are thankful.  Take the time to acknowledge these people as some of the many gifts that are already yours by grace.  The saddest testimonies I’ve heard in recent days are those from families who lost loved ones and wept because they had taken their presence for granted. 

If you and I can learn anything from this, it is that we can’t take anything or ANYONE FOR GRANTED.

You may not loose your loved from via a terrorist act.  It may be a careless driver. It may be a sudden illness.  It may be a heart attack–as the one who took my friend Nate Kellum on Tuesday evening. 

Don’t take anyone for granted.

Thank God for His blessing and hug those who are his blessing.  Hug them.  Kiss them.  Do that everyday!

Other than that, my only other comment for you today is this:

Grace and peace to you from the Lord Jesus Christ.

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