A. Today is a very important day in the history of our country, for as you well know, today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
1. All week I struggled with the question: what should be said from the pulpit on a day like today?
2. I looked back in my notes to see what we did together on that first Sunday after the attacks.
a. It was Sunday, September 16, 2001.
b. We decided to do a devotional worship service that day – Titled: “A Time of Crisis.”
c. My sermon was broken up into three segments:
1. Remember to Reach Out for God.
2. Remember to Help the Hurting.
3. Remember to Prepare for Judgment.
3. So here we are 10 years later.
a. We all know what happened back then - I don’t have to go into great detail about it.
b. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.
c. It seemed as if time stood still as we all tuned in to watch the tragedy unfold over the next hours and days.
4. Many of us here today have moved well beyond the tragedy, but for so many other people, what happened 10 years ago continues to directly affect their lives.
a. Nearly 3,000 people from 90 countries died in the carnage of the terrorist attacks, including 343 firefighters and 60 police officers.
1. The people from all of those families continue to live life without their loved ones.
2. We should be praying for their continued comfort.
b. Since those attacks and the war on terror, at least 900 thousand people (by the most conservative estimates) have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
1. That number includes the 4,683 U.S. troops who have lost their lives.
2. That number also includes the other coalition troops killed, the Afghan and Iraqi troops killed, the contractors and journalists killed, and all of the Afghan and Iraqi civilians who have died.
3. That is a lot of families who have lost loved ones who need God’s comfort.
c. In addition to all those who have lost their lives, there have been an estimated 1.5 million people who have been injured in these wars, including 30,490 U.S. soldiers. Those injured will suffer with those injuries for the rest of their lives.
5. I bring all of this up to help us to be sensitive to the fact that this anniversary means a lot of different things to different people, depending on the personal way it has affected you.
B. So let’s return to the original question I began with: how should we commemorate this anniversary during our worship service today?
1. Let me say that I believe there are a number of things we should not do.
2. First, the focus of our worship should not be primarily patriotic.
a. I’m thankful to be an American and I believe our country has been blessed in many ways.
b. But we are not here to worship and praise the United States of America – that would be idolatry.
c. Our hope and trust must be in our God, not our country, and our most important citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, not in some earthly kingdom.
d. And although it is natural to love and take pride in your own country, our spiritual perspective should cause us to see that God is equally interested in all the people of the world, regardless of geography, culture, nation or ethnicity.
3. A second thing we should not do today is attempt to raise people’s fears about our enemies in the world – this should not be a time to focus on Muslim extremists, although they are a serious threat.
4. A final thing I don’t intend to do today is to show a lot of pictures or footage of planes crashing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
a. We’ve all seen those images hundreds, if not thousands of times, and no doubt we’ve seen a lot of it this week as the anniversary has approached.
C. So, if that’s not what we should do, then what should we focus on in our worship on a day like today?
1. There are two primary things that I want to encourage us to focus on.
2. The first is that we should put our hope and trust in the Lord, and the second is that we should seek to forgive our enemies.
D. What does it mean that our hope and trust is in the Lord?
1. Let’s turn our attention to Psalm 33.
2. Starting with verse 4, we read:
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
a. Is this what you believe about God?
b. Do you believe that the word of the Lord is right and true?
c. Do you believe that God is faithful in all He does?
d. Do you trust in the unfailing love of the Lord?
3. Verse 6 continues:
6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all
a. Why should we trust and hope in the Lord? Because He is our creator.
b. Our God speaks and things are created and come into being.
c. Our God plans and purposes and it is done.
d. Our God foils the plans of nations.
e. Ultimately God is in control! We can hope and trust because of that.
4. Verse 12 continues:
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.
a. How blessed are those who have accepted God’s invitation and await His inheritance.
b. How foolish to put our hope in kings and horses.
c. But how wonderful to trust and hope in the Lord, because we know that God sees and that God loves and that God delivers.
d. When we trust in the Lord we are filled with joy and hope and love.
5. We must understand that hoping and trusting in the Lord doesn’t mean we won’t experience tragedy and suffering.
a. Romans 8:28 tells us: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
b. Notice that the text says “in all things.”
1. Not “in most things” or “in pleasant things” or “in religious things.”
c. God is working in all things, the pleasant and the tragic, the exciting and the horrific, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
d. Please understand that Paul is not saying that God causes all things.
1. Awful and horrible things like September 11 happen in our world, and God is not the author of those things.
2. God has given the human race a significant dose of freedom, and sometimes people use their freedom in horrible and evil ways.
3. So the Bible is not saying that God causes all things.
e. What the Bible is saying is that in the midst of all things – including the horrible things people do – God is at work.
f. We often wonder how God could be working through a horrible situation, but it’s only in retrospect that we can see how God was working in the midst of painful and tragic experiences.
6. This reminds me of the Old Testament person named Joseph.
a. Not too long ago, we studied his life.
b. Joseph’s older brothers hated him so much that they sold him into slavery.
c. Nevertheless, Joseph didn’t grow bitter and hateful; instead he looked for how God was working in his circumstances.
d. Eventually, Joseph became a high level official in the Egyptian government.
e. When a famine hit the entire ancient world, it was Joseph’s God-given foresight and management that enabled Egypt to survive.
f. Since the famine was widespread, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food.
g. In the end, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and his entire family came to live with Joseph in Egypt.
h. When Joseph’s brothers admitted their fear of what Joseph might do to them to get revenge, Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50:19-21)
7. When we put our hope and trust in the Lord, we know that although we may experience some very dark and difficult times, we know that God is with us, that God will bring us through, and more than just bringing us through, God will actually bring good to us through our dark and difficult times.
a. I hope we can find comfort and strength in God’s promises.
b. Because our hope and trust is in the Lord.
E. The other thing I want to encourage us to give attention to on this anniversary of 9/11 is forgiveness.
1. Should we forgive our enemies?
2. Should we forgive the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks?
3. Let’s look at that question in another context: Could you forgive Dr. Mengele, the Nazi “angel of death?”
a. That question haunted Eva Kor, who tells her remarkable story in the documentary film Forgiving Dr. Mengele (2007).
b. Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, spent ten months in Auschwitz.
c. Along with other twins, they were separated from their families and subjected to Mengele’s horrific “medical” experiments.
d. After liberation by the Soviets when she was 10 years-old, and then after ten years in living in Israel, Eva relocated to Indiana and raised a family.
e. Eva returned to Auschwitz for the first time in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps, and on that occasion she did the unthinkable.
f. Eva read aloud her personal “official declaration of amnesty” to Mengele and the Nazis. Eva Kor officially forgave them.
g. To be liberated from the Nazis was not enough, she said; she needed to be released from the pain of the past.
h. To extend forgiveness without any prerequisites required of the perpetrators, said Eve, was an “act of self-healing.”
i. Through the act of “forgiving your worst enemy” Eva said that she experienced “the feeling of complete freedom from pain.” Many Jews were outraged by her act.
4. In the gospel of Matthew we read about Peter asking Jesus a question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Mt. 18:21)
a. Surely Peter thought he was being pretty generous by being willing to forgive someone 7 times.
b. But Jesus upped the ante and expanded the arithmetic of forgiveness.
c. 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [or seventy times seven] (Mt. 18:22)
d. Seventy-seven times is certainly a lot of times, and 490 times is even more, but either of them is beyond counting.
e. In other words, how many times should you forgive your brother or sister? As many times as is needed.
1. The kind of forgiveness that should characterize God’s people is beyond calculation or comprehension.
f. In the verses that follow Jesus’ answer, Jesus told an outlandish parable about an “unmerciful servant” who received forgiveness for his own enormous debt, but then instead of extending forgiveness for a tiny debt that he was owed, he imprisoned the debtor.
1. When the master found out what the unmerciful servant had done to the one who owed him the debt, he had the unmerciful servant imprisoned until he could payback what he owed.
g. Jesus concluded by explaining the point of the story: 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mt. 18:35)
h. Jesus equated receiving forgiveness to offering forgiveness.
i. We can expect divine forgiveness in the measure that we extend human forgiveness.
j. Therefore, our own sense of need of forgiveness is the basis upon which we freely forgive others.
k. We can only hope for ourselves what we lavish on others.
5. The good news is that God is a forgiving God who has already extended forgiveness to us because of Jesus.
a. The forgiveness we have received from God is to be the basis of our ability to forgive others.
b. Paul wrote, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
6. We need to keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean “forgetting.”
7. Nor does it mean that people who have harmed us don’t have to face the consequences of their actions, but it does mean that we have to let go of any hatred and bitterness in our hearts.
8. When we forgive others, it is really us, more than they, who are being set free.
9. Maybe your struggle today isn’t forgiving the terrorists of 9/11, but someone more closely related to you – a relative, an ex-mate or ex-friend, or co-worker, or church member.
10. Whomever it is that you need to forgive, God wants to help you forgive your enemies.
F. Let’s conclude by returning to our first point and the title of this sermon – In God We Hope and Trust.
1. While our nation gives appropriate attention to this anniversary, let us keep our focus on God.
2. While the City of New York debates and struggles to complete the memorial being constructed on the former site of the Twin Towers, we who hope in the Lord know that hope needs no memorial.
3. Our hope is ignited by faith in a God whose love and power are far greater than we could ever imagine.
4. Our hope rests solely in God, in whom we trust.
G. Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.
1. Those who trust in Jesus receive abundant life and eternal life.
2. The Bible tells us that we put our trust in Jesus by confessing our faith, repenting, and being baptized into Christ, and then by living a faithful life of trust.
3. We would love to help you put your faith in Jesus and help you to keep your faith in Jesus.
- America’s Hope, Article from www.blacksermons.com
- National Tragedies in Light of Spiritual Truths: The Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks, Article by Dan Clendenin, www.journeywithJesus.net.
- Worship on September 11, 2011, Article by Taylor Burton-Edwards, www.gbod.org
- The Knowledge That Changes Everything, Sermon by Timothy Peck, SermonCentral.com