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…years ago filled most of us with a variety of emotions, feelings, thoughts, and reactions. We had moved from disbelief to disgust. We had gone from numbness to revenge. We were looking for logic, among the illogical. We were appalled the lack of our national security. We were astounded that these terrorists were part of our everyday American life. We were overwhelmed by the task of cleaning up and rebuilding. We had been inconvenienced in our daily routine. We mourned for the children who had lost a parent, the men and women who had lost a spouse, and the communities who had lost such faithful helpers. We wondered how families would pay their bills and how companies would continue to do business. We wanted to turn from the ongoing disaster we were seeing and hearing on the news, yet we were drawn to hear the latest developments. We were proud of the resurgence of national unity. We waved our flags high and boldly proclaimed that we are proud to be an American. We bowed our heads in reverence during times of prayer. We were even willing to talk to strangers and ask, “how are you?” Or, “did you have someone close to you who lived in those areas.” We comforted our children, we encouraged our friends. We attempted to find some some sense of normalcy.
9/11 ten years ago, 2001, there was a national phrase that became a part of everyday discussion: ground zero. Every phrase that we talked about and every day we would use the word. Ground Zero. It became known as a place of destruction, of devastation, of loss, of evil, of disbelief, of heartache, of sadness, and of mourning. Ground zero was a place where life meant death, where time seemed to stand still, where the present became historic, and where our faith was challenged by the facts. But ground zero is not a new term, it’s been around since the beginning of time. We just didn’t think about it. Remember in Genesis the story of Adam and Eve? Being tossed out of the garden. For them it was a ground zero event. The story that we read today in Exodus about Moses as he leads the people through the read sea and the waves crash in over the Egyptians. For those Israelites, it was a ground zero event. As we look at the end of the new testament, the end of the gospel, we loo to the cross, Jesus: The innocent man was crucified – was a ground zero event. But history goes on. in Germany, the destruction of all the Jews was a ground zero event. We come to this country and we think about Gettysburg, we think about Pearl Harbor, we think about Hiroshima. We then being to think in more present time about Oklahoma City, and of course the World Trade Centers the pentagon, the planes of Pennsylvania. Well let’s come even more present day to our goings and comings and we look at the force of the hurricanes that have come, the crash of the tsunamis, and the epicenter of all the earthquakes. All of those are ground zero events. But ground zero is not just in the massive events of live. Ground zero I think is found in the death of a loved one. It’s found in the destruction of a friendship. It’s found in the ending of a career, and the dissolving of a marriage. And the diagnosis of cancer.
You see the truth is we have a lot of ground zero events in our day to day, but it’s here. Its here at those events that we have a choice. Let us not forget that we have a choice. Now back in 2001 the national response to that event was to “let’s rid the world of evil. Let’s lift high the flag. Let’s take up our weapons and reclaim our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe, just as I did then and I do now, that God’s response continues to echo throughout all of these ground zero events. I think he was saying to us, pout aside your flag, and take up the cross. Now those are hard words to hear, because that goes against the norm of what we were feeling. The truth is yes we are americans, no doubt about it. But above that we’ve chosen to be Christian. We’ve chosen that. And so we have to examine our responses based on what would God have us to do, and not what the world would have us to do. There was a story that came out not too long after the 2001 event. It was entitled ‘I was there.’ I think some of you may have read this in the past or hear about it so maybe this will spark your mind in remembering. You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11, 2001. Well neither will I.
I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say goodbye. I held his finger steady as he died. I gave him the peace to say “honey, I’m not going to make it, but it is okay. I’m ready to go.” I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children. I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn’t coming home that night. I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to me fro help. I have been knocking the door of your heart for 50 years I said… of course I will show you the way home. Just believe me now. I was at the base of the building with a priest ministering to the injured and the devastated souls. and i took him home to tend to his flock in heaven. He heard my voice and answered. I was on all four of those planes in every seat with every prayer. I was with the crew as they were overtaken. I was in the very heart of the believers there comforting and ensuring them that their faith has saved them. I was in Texas and Kansas and London. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you see me? Did you sense me? I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name. Though not all knew me. Some met me for the first time on the 86th floor. Some sought me with their last breath and some could not hear me calling to them through the smoke and the flames, “come to me, this way! Take my hand!” Some chose for the final time to ignore me, but I was there. I did not place you in the tower that day. You may not know why but I do. However if you were there in that explosive moment in time would you have reached for me? September the 11th, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you, but someday your journey will end, and I will be there for you as well. Seek me now while I may be found. Then at any moment you know you are ready to go. And I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.
Signed with agape,
In Psalm 11 are these words:
In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright at heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, He hates with a passion. On the wicked He will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous. He loves justice, and the upright will see His face.
We have a choice. We had a choice ten years ago and we have a choice today. We have a choice to be overshadowed by the evil that surrounds those sorts of events, or, we have a choice to seek the Holy in the midst of those events. We have a choice to only see Satan as he is at work in the world around us, or we have the choice to observe God and His handiwork in the midst of what goes on around us.
If you read through Romans chapter 12 verses 9-21, I won’t read the scripture you go home and look at it, but when Paul is writing there, these are the things he is sharing with that church. He says: hate what is evil, and cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another. Be joyful and hope, be patient in affliction, be faithful in prayer. He’s calling the community in the midst of the things that go on in the devastation and the heartaches and the destructions that we hear about and part of our lives that we are to be bound together. He says practice hospitality. He doesn’t distinguish to who, just be hospitable. But the words are hard that he shares because he goes on and says “bless those who persecute you.” That’s against every fiber of my being, to do those sorts of things. But he calls us to go beyond who we are. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. But then it gets really tough, because he says live in harmony. Do not be conceited. Do not repay evil, for evil. Do not take revenge. Do not be overcome by evil. And you see in the midst of those tragic moments in our lives, in the midst of the devastation that we celebrate and we think about ten years ago, that’s where we want to head, and sometimes we still want to be there. But he shared these final words: overcome evil with good. Is it hard? Yeah, it’s real hard. It’s a challenge beyond what many of us think that we can do, and that’s why we live in the grace of God, because it’s through His spirit that we’re able to overcome those sorts of events. So today as we remember, may we continue to think about what is our reaction going to continue to be? How will we continue to respond? So I want to end today with a prayer that came out, again, around 9/11 two thousand years ago, as we sort of end our time and continue to think about this day and how we have been affected and how we continue to be affected.
Dear God, we join in prayer to celebrate this nation and surrender its destiny to you. We give thanks in our hearts for the founding of this country. We give thanks for and bless the souls of those who came before us to found this nation, to nurture and to save it. We ask that your spirit now fill our hearts with righteousness. May we play our parts in the healing and the furtherance of our country. May we be cleansed from all destructive thoughts. May judgement of others, bigotry, racism, and intolerance be washed clean from our heats. May our minds be filled with the thoughts of you, O Lord, and your unconditional love, and your acceptance of all people. May our lives be turned into instruments of resurrection, that the sins of our fathers be reversed through us. May the beauty and the greatness of this land burst forth once more in the hearts of its people. May the dreams of our forefathers be realized in us, that we might live in honesty, and integrity, and excellence with our neighbors. May this country once again become a light unto the nations of hope and goodness and peace and freedom. May violence and darkness be cast out of our midst. May hatred no longer find fertile ground in which to grow here. And may all of us feel God’s grace upon us. Reignite dear God the spirit of truth in our hearts, and may our nation be given a new light. The sacred fire that once shone so bright from shore to shore, and may we be repaired, may we be forgiven, may our childred be blessed. And may we be renewed. So dear God, please bless America. Amen.