Summary: PENTECOST 11, YEAR A - A 911 sermon
"I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.
In the world you face persecution.
But take courage; I have conquered the world!"
How many here can remember what happened on Dec 7th, 1941? What about April 19th, 1995. How about Tuesday of this last week. On each of these dates our country has been attacked. Pearl Harbor Naval Base. The Oklahoma City Federal Building. The New York City Trade Towers & the Pentagon. Each event an act of War. Each incident carried out by unsuspected adversaries. In each of our lives, and in the life of our nation, there will be events that will forever change us, that will become defining moments for all that we will do and become. Cross roads along our journey where strangers become companions through those simple words, “Do you remember when...?” And in an instant the memories all come flooding back in. Memories of The Great Depression, D Day on Normandy Beach, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when the towers came tumbling down. Little did any of us know in those moments how much those events would impact us, but looking back now, we know that they have. My mother-in-law vividly remembers the day the stock market crashed in 1929. She was 8 years old and didn’t have a care in the world. That morning she walked into the kitchen to find her mother crying at the table asking her father, where will we get food to feed the family. My mother-in-law is five feet tall and weighs over 180 lbs. She has an refrigerator and two freezers that are packed with food at all times. That childhood event so shocked her that she vowed that as an adult she would never be hungry again. It left her with fear and a compelling resolve to be prepared for the next great depression. We may have little control over the pivotal events that will come our way in life but we do have control over how we will respond to those events.
This week our nation has experienced a great tragedy that will forever change the face of America. We don’t know yet, in what way it will we just know that it will. So we have gathered here together this morning as a community of faith to seek strength from God, to find comfort and courage, and to determine for ourselves how we will live in light of this great tragedy. How can we live in the rubble of our loses? How can we rebuild a community that can overcome such tragedy and terror? How? By trusting in God because the God we serve is in the business of creating good from evil, life from death. We can overcome because God is with us. God has promised us “All things work unto good to those who love God and are called to His purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good, for there is evil in this world. What it does say is that God will take all things, even the evil of this world, and create from it good. God has promised us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and God’s love has always been more powerful than evil. God’s love sent Christ. God’s love raised the cross. God’s love brought life from death.
These are words of hope we can cling to. These are words that can bring us peace. These are promises that will not fail, because God does not fail. But can we live by them? Last week we heard Christ’s challenge about the cost of discipleship. This last week we have felt all too keenly the cost of being American. And in the weeks ahead we will learn for ourselves what Christ’s discipleship will cost us. You and I will experience most surely how difficult it is to truly live by faith. In Hebrews we are reminded that, Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen. And that without faith it is impossible to please God for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that God rewards those who seek Him. But when terrorists assault us when the darkness of this world surrounds us and when our inner souls cry out for vengeance. What are we as Christians to do? We are to take up our cross and are to follow the Christ. We are to die to the way of our fleshly desires, that Jesus may raise us up to the way of the Holy Spirit. Crisis events like that of Tuesday can draw us into the darkness of this present age and lead us like Tuesday’s terrorists to commit horrendous acts of violence. But we have a choice: we can instead chose to live by faith, trusting in God. We can chose to live as Christ lived. This is the life Christ chose while we were still enemies of God, he died for us, forgave us our sins and offered us mercy, grace and love. And He who has forgiven us our sins now commands those who would follow in His way “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” This is surely the toughest act to follow. But we have yet another assurance from God “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” God is asking a lot, and God is giving us everything we need to do God’s will. Christ bid us “Take up your cross,” but he also carried it before us. To take up the cross is to die beside the Christ. To die to our way and to be raised with Christ to receive new life, new hope, and a new kingdom, the kingdom of God where peace and justice reign.