Summary: Written in response to the 9/11 attacks but also in response to the reactions of some notable Christian leaders.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the Word of the Lord, you may be seated.
This was a very hard sermon to write. Let me admit that right up front. I anticipated quite a few people in church this morning, as I suspect is happening all around the country. I knew that I was going to have a very rare opportunity to stand before many more people than I usually do. People searching for answers, for comfort, for hope, for God. I pray to God that I do not disappoint this morning.
What happened last Tuesday was unprecedented. More Americans died in this one attack than in any other one attack in the history of our country. And for the first time since 1865, war has come to the American soil. For 136 years, Americans on American soil has been safe from the ravages of war. That has all changed in the span of a few minutes on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The closest thing that this country has endured was the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor almost 60 years ago to the day!
My generation has never experienced anything like this. The closest we’ve come was the Persian Gulf War. The generation before me endured two wars – Korea and Vietnam. And the generation before that fought and won World War II.
For most of us, outside of history books we have no reference point for what has happened to us. And I do want to emphasize that it has happened to us. This attack did not happen to citizens of New York City or Washington D.C. It happened to Americans and to the United States of America. What we are going through as Americans is very difficult to understand and cope with.
For Americans, by and large, don’t know how to mourn. Americans are very uncomfortable with the whole idea of grief. We take it as a sign of weakness or personal failure if we’re not happy. Sadness isn’t seen as a normal part of life. Rather, it’s seen as a reason to get a prescription for anti-depressants. Somehow, our right to the pursuit of happiness has been transformed into a requirement that we always actually be happy. Grief is almost unpatriotic. It calls into question our whole form of government. If democracy doesn’t guarantee constant happiness, then there must be something wrong! Look at our movies. American movies all have happy endings. You can have dozens of people shot, murdered, maimed, and knifed, but in the end, the good guy wins and everybody lives happily ever after (everybody that’s not dead, that is). Movies that violate the “happy ending” principle generally get good reviews, but lose money.
Now add to that the attitude that Christians should always be happy. If we’re sad, somehow it reflects badly on God. After all, didn’t Jesus come to make us happy all the time? No matter what happens, we have to put on a happy face; otherwise, it casts doubt on the truth of the gospel.