Summary: A special sermon for the September 11, 2001 tragedy.
Pastor Joel Schulz
September 16, 2001
A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD
I am sure that for most of you, this past Tuesday started out like any normal day. It did for me. But that sure changed in a hurry, didn’t it? After my wife had called me out of my office to see such a strange accident; a plane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center in NY, things started changing at a rapid pace. Our disbelief turned into shock when the second plane hit, along with the instant realization that there was a much darker evil behind all of what was happening. The grief over all of the people who were killed in those two plane crashes, as well as all of the people in the offices that must have been hit, was overwhelming. Two more planes crashed, and now real fear hit. But I have no word to even describe the emotion of seeing the unthinkable: One tower, then the other, falling to the ground in a cloud of dust and debris. Hundreds of dead instantly turned into thousands. The word so often used in the telecast to describe all of this: “Horrific.”
By human standards, this event has been a horrible tragedy. Thousands are dead. We probably won’t know exactly how many for some time. The loss of innocent life is the worst tragedy. Millions of people are affected by that loss. There are families all over the world who may have lost loved ones. And it isn’t just the loss of life. It will be a long time before we are able to comprehend the full extent of the repercussions from what happened on Tuesday.
How does it affect us? Certainly it brings SADNESS to our hearts. Sadness for all those who lost loved ones. Sadness for those whose time of grace was cut short. Sadness for those who may not have known Jesus. DISBELIEF. Disbelief at the evil and hatred that could have provoked such an event. Disbelief in the ability of these persons to kill so many innocent people cold-heartedly. Disbelief in what is happening in our world. And it also directly affects us with FEAR. My fear escalated very quickly on Tuesday every time I heard a reporter say, “Sorry, we are going to have to interrupt with some bad news…” Fear, when for the first time ever, every airport in North America was shut down. It was an eerie silence this week, as we walked in our neighborhood which is right under a usual flight path. Fear, since the impossible was done – an attack was carried out against a North American country in broad daylight. This fortress we thought was impenetrable was shown to be penetrable and even vulnerable. And that is now a new kind of fear for every one of us. The fear of wondering: Will our country will ever be the same? Will our continent will ever be the same? Will our world will ever be the same?
At this point, we can’t answer those questions. The sinful world we live in makes it impossible to answer those questions. As our ever-changing world trembles around us, there is one solid source of comfort that we have – the Mighty Fortress that we have in our God. As we heard in our psalm, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”
Of all the images I was overwhelmed with on Tuesday morning, nothing was so awful as seeing those massive buildings give way and falling into the heart of the sea of people and buildings below. I instantly knew that meant thousands of dead. There was a time during the morning where we were sure there was no way those buildings would fall, even with the damage done at the top of them. But when they did, I couldn’t help imagining what it must have been like for the people who were still standing on those floors over a hundred stories in the air. Imagine standing on what you trust to be so solid, such a firm foundation, suddenly plunge downward from under your feet! Imagine being in that free fall to your death. Awful.
Our text reminds us that “kingdoms fall.” The earth quakes. Mountains fall. Waters roar. Buildings collapse. Cities are destroyed. Governments fail. Kingdoms fall. There is nothing in this earth that we can rely upon perfectly. There is no place where we can run for true safety. We have seen that earthly institutions, no matter how powerful, are vulnerable. This is a world that offers us no true safety nor any firmer place to stand than those crashing towers did.