Summary: A sermon preached 9/11/2006 @ North Prairie Lutheran Church for a special prayer service held to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Some material is from a sermon by Rev. Timothy Pauls.
9/11 Anniversary Service of Prayer & Remembrance
Psalm 46:7 Our Ever Present Help 9/11/2006
North Prairie Lutheran Church, rural Scarville, Iowa (ELCM)
In the last seventy-five years or so, there are certain dates that are frozen forever in the minds of many Americans, due to a significant event in the history of our country. For example, how many of you here tonight know the significance of December 7th? (Allow time for someone to acknowledge Pearl Harbor.) Yes, that’s right, on that day in 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, an event that forced our country into active participation in World War II. Or, for those of you in my parents’ generation, do you remember what happened November 22, 1963? That’s the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Many of you here tonight might have watched the events of that day unfold on TV or by radio, or could tell me where you were when you heard the news that day. For my generation, the day in history that is forever etched into our minds is the day we are commemorating with this special service tonight, September 11th, 2001. Over the last few days, the TV networks, and print media have had special sections, stories, or programs about the events that unfolded in New York, Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania on this day five years ago. Where were you, what were you doing on that day? If we were to go around the sanctuary tonight and give everyone here the chance to tell their 9/11 story, we would end up having a prayer service that would last all night, like those of our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ in the Lutheran Fellowship of India. But, since we don’t have that much time this evening, I’ll share mine since it may be very similar to many of your experiences of that day.
September 11, 2001, began as a typical day would for me. I was a student at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, doing my pre ministerial studies there. I was fortunate that fall semester in that my class schedule didn’t begin each day until 1 p.m., so I had the luxury of sleeping in, which I took advantage of that morning. I overslept for chapel that morning, and I had an appointment to meet with Pastor John Dreyer, an admissions counselor from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I didn’t have time to turn on my TV set in my dorm room, so I just got showered, changed clothes, and made my way over to the Campus Ministry Center for may meeting with Pastor Dreyer. I made it as far as the classroom building, when I saw my friend, Andy looking rather distraught. His characteristic smile was gone, with a look of shock and disbelief in his eyes. He asked me where I was headed, and I said where I was going. He replied “Didn’t you turn on your TV this morning? Where have you been? Everything’s cancelled today, we’re under attack man! What are we going to do? Where are we going to turn?” I realized this was no joke, the halls, normally packed with students, staff, and faculty going here and there, were eerily quiet. I ran back to my dorm room, turned on the TV, and saw the footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. Those images are ones I, and most likely, you, will never forget.
Yet, another thing about that day I will never forget, and am reminded of with the anniversary today, are the emotions, questions that many people had. Just like my friend Andy, many people were asking “What’s going to happen next?” Some in the Twin Cities were fearful that an attack could happen in the city. The airports of our country were shut down. By evening, speculation grew that gas, and other supplies, would be in short supply. The line at the gas station across the street from my dorm room stretched for blocks until the station ran out of gas. Some parts of the city saw fights break out. We even heard rumors that gas would cost up to $6 a gallon or more! In all this time of uncertainty, people were wondering where to turn for comfort, for security. And it was at that time, churches opened their doors, allowing people to come, to pray, to find safety, perhaps even answers. Our chapel on campus was open 24 hours a day for prayer. Several prayer services, like the one we are hosting here tonight, were held. The Sunday that followed the attacks saw people flooding to the churches, looking for some sort of help, comfort, looking for answers. These images remained ingrained in me, and make me wonder, 5 years later, if this were to happen again, with all the grief, sadness, and loss that still accompany us today, where do we find a hope to cling to/ Whom to we turn to in times of great crisis, be it a terrorist attack, an ongoing war on terror, or in a time of natural disaster such as this country experienced last year with the hurricanes in the South? We find the answer in the words of the 46th Psalm, which we read responsively earlier tonight and sang about in Martin Luther’s great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God!” Just look at verse 7 in particular. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.