Summary: Delivered on September 11, 2011 the Tenth Anniversary of the 911 attacks.
LESSONS FROM GROUND ZERO
It is a common observation for events that are sudden, shocking, and heavy events that we not only remember the event, we remember where we were when we heard about the event. Senior adults who were alive during the 1940’s not only remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, but they also remember where they were when they heard about the attack. People alive during early 1960’s not only remember the assassination of President Kennedy, but where they were when they heard about it. In 2001, we remember not only the news of airliners flying into New York’s twin towers, the pentagon, and the crash in Pennsylvania, but where we were as we followed that awful story.
Where were you? Maybe it was a spot on the highway listening to yourradio. Perhaps you were in your workplace, your kitchen, at a restaurant, or in school. It is the place you will never forget. While that place will not compare to the hallowed respect we give to Ground Zero, in a sense, that is our Ground Zero.
On September 11, 2002 I was asked to speak at local hospital chapel service. Part of my reflection was that Ground Zero happens there every day, just not to the same scale. Every day someone’s life is shattered. Everyday someone is told that his or her loved one did not survive. Every day people abruptly must face an uncertain future. Everyday tragedy touches someone’s life. Therefore, any place can be Ground Zero.
In Luke 13, there is a story we do not visit too often about a Ground Zero place.
1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:1-3 NIV
This morning on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we share some somber lessons about any place, every place, about all the “Ground Zeroes” where tragedy, disappointment, and loss can strike.
LIFE IS UNCERTAIN
Notice that in the news that came to Jesus, those whose blood was spilt were worshipping: whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Luke 13:1b NIV
Who would have expected that, in an act of worship, these Galileans would have been struck down. Even there they were not safe from sudden tragedy. Who would have thought ten years ago that people getting on an airliner or going to work find their day take such an unexpected turn.
Life is insecure and uncertain. Skyscrapers crash and so do stock markets. Rebels attack and children rebel. Bodies get broken, and so do relationships. Our health declines and marriages fail.
Ground Zero brings us to places where we see how little is in our control. We are confronted with acts of violence. We feel the trauma of floods and tornadoes. We grieve the pain of divorce. We watch helplessly when our children or grandchildren make rebellious decisions.
No one can truly say with certainty where he or she will be ten or twenty years from now. You do not know if you will be prosperous or poor, honored or despised, have many friends or only a few. The world faces uncertain days and it always has. So it is no surprise that so much of scripture was written in times of crisis, in the face of adversity because so much of life is lived in the face of danger.
EVIL IS REAL
Look at the earlier part of that verse: whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1b NIV) The cause of this bloodshed was a deliberate order given by Pilate.
The aftermath of a tornado or and earthquake is tragic, but not necessarily “evil.” The challenge of a health issue like cancer may be formidable, but not necessarily “evil.” But the tragedies brought about by human decisions bring their own unique pain. The pictures of airliners flying into buildings and skyscrapers collapsing, along with the knowledge that the cause was a deliberate act to kill and destroy convinces us that evil exists. Such sinister acts remind us of the reality of evil. Certainly Jeremiah was right when he said,
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9 NLT
Evil is real, but evil does not have the last word… it can be overcome. Paul gives the instruction: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NIV
GOD IS GOOD
The familiar psalm affirms that 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, (Psalm 46:1 NIV) Notice the scale and intensity of the trouble. Certainly these are “Ground Zero” tragedies. Yet God is present.