OPEN: Chuck (our worship leader) just sang Alan Jackson’s song which asked where were you when the “world stopped turning”, when the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago. Several of our people were visiting New York City and were trapped at Central Park, unable to tell quite what had happened, or knowing the full extent of the tragedy that took place that day.
This weekend, our nation is memorializing the tragedy that has been remembered by the simple words: “September 11th”
· There are civic events that will remember those who lost their lives that terrible day
· There’s a special worship service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC
· There are will be special worship services in churches across the nation.
· AND there’s the dedication of the new World Trade Center 10 years to the day that the Original World Trade Center was destroyed by evil men on September 11th, 2001
Shortly after the destruction of the twin towers 10 years ago New York debated what to do in the wake of the terrible devastation that occurred that day.
Should they erect a simple memorial? Should they turn the area into a park where people could reflect on the terrible things that had occurred? Or should simply they rebuild the original towers as they had been?
Several plans were circulated, but eventually a man by the name of Daniel Libeskind submitted the most impressive plan.
In its finished form The One World Trade Center would have :
1. A 200 square foot base, almost as wide as the 208 square feet of the original Twin Towers.
2. There will be two glass reflecting pools. These pools are approximately 30 feet below the surface, and are located on the exact locations of the former Twin Towers.
3. Water will cascade over the edges of these pools and will flow over brass plates that have the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001 AND the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing will be inscribed.
4. Under the pools, there will be a museum called the “National September 11 Memorial and Museum.”
5. The top floor of One World Trade Center will be 1,368 feet tall… the same as the original World Trade Center.
6. With its spire, the height of this new “World Trade Center will stand at 1,776 feet - a figure symbolic of the year of the United States Declaration of Independence was signed
The beauty and symbolism of the new structure prompted then Gov. George E. Pataki name it “The Freedom Tower”. It is a fitting memorial to the many police and firemen who gave their lives trying to rescue those who were trapped inside.
But now a question:
What does the Freedom Tower stand for?
Partly, it’s a shrine. A memorial to those who died that day. The names that are etched into those bronze plates are meant to be a reminder of who died that day. Some were victims… some were rescuers. But their names are all important.
But the Freedom Tower was meant to be more than just a shrine. The symbolism that was built into this tower was meant to declare to the world:
America was not destroyed on September 11th
· The Freedom Tower will be bigger, better and stronger than the Twin Towers that it replaced
· In fact, this new Tower will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. They say you’ll be able to see the curvature of the earth from its top floor.
· It’s made of the strongest metal and cement that has ever been used in a building of this type.
· And – most importantly - the Freedom Tower rises as a symbol of life out of the ashes of death.
Also, the designers meant tower to declare that America is a land of Freedom.
That’s the significance of this building being 1776 feet tall.
That’s the importance of the term “Freedom Tower” to describe this structure.
America has always been known as “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Do you know where that phrase comes from? It came from one of our most famous patriotic songs:
Rise and sing with me these words:
“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”
That’s the declaration of the Freedom Tower.
The Statue of Liberty says much the same. It declares to the world:
"Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"
Freedom is what our nation was based upon.
· Freedom of expression
· Freedom to worship
· Freedom to bear arms
· Freedom from the intrusion of government into our lives
Patrick Henry said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it was an instrument for the people to restrain the government lest it come to dominate our lives and interests”
And the Bill of Rights was the written declaration of the rights of America’s citizens, of the freedoms that we have been guaranteed by our nation’s founders.
Now our nation hasn’t always lived up to those promises.
Our nation hasn’t always met that ideal.
But even when our country failed to be everything it could have been, those freedoms were envied by citizens of all other nations.
Our nation’s dedication to Freedom has been one of the things that has made our nation great! But where did that Freedom come from? How has it been that our nation has been more dedicated to the ideal of freedom than other countries in the world have been.
ILLUS: In the 1830’s the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville toured America.
When his tour had been completed, he made this observation (and I paraphrase):
"I have toured America, and I have seen most of what you offer.
I’ve seen the richness of the fields and the wealth of your mines.
I’ve seen your industrial might, the beauties of the rivers, the streams, the lakes, and the grandeur of the mountains.
I’ve noticed the abundance of the forests and the marvelous climate with which you are blessed.
In none of these things did I see the cause for the greatness of America.
It wasn’t until I went into your churches that I saw the reason for America’s greatness.
America is great because America is good; and as long as America is good, America will be great. If it ever ceases to be good, it will cease to be great."
It was IN THE CHURCHES that Tocqueville found this truth.
Because it was in the churches that the freedom of our nation began.
Back BEFORE the Declaration of Independence was signed, Congress declared a National time of fasting and prayer was to be observed.
And when the Declaration was sent out to the people - at the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress ordered copies of the Declaration first be sent not to town clerks or newspapers but to preachers at churches, who were "required to read the same to their respective congregations, as soon as divine service is ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s day after they have received it."
The Declaration itself laid the groundwork for our freedom as a Nation:
And that declaration was to be based upon the nation’s faith in God.
It was quite literally a declaration of “Dependence upon God.”
In the first two sentences of the Declaration of Independence - God is referred to 3 times:
1. He is referred to as “Nature’s God”.
2. It states that “… all men are created…” (we have a Creator)
3. And that they are “… endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”
That’s just in the first two sentences.
In the very last sentence of the Declaration of Independence are these words:
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
One man read this and stated that our Declaration was “an appeal to heaven” by our founders.
Our Nation and its freedom were based upon faith in Christ.
· That’s why the two huge oak doors that open into the Supreme Court have the 10 Commandments engraved on the lower portions of each door.
· That’s why Bible verses are etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington, D.C.
· That’s why the designer of the official grounds of Washington laid the Capital out in the shape of a perfect cross with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol is on the east and the Lincoln Memorial is to the west.
· That’s why the Washington Monument - the tallest structure in D.C. by the decree of law– has a Bible placed inside its cornerstone, and is capped by a aluminum dome which has these two Latin words: Laus Deo (Praise God)
· And that’s why every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.
Our nation’s founders realized that their freedom came from God and that only God could assure freedom would continue for the generations to come.
But our nation has slowly lost sight of that truth.
Today at the Washington National Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington will host a worship service there which will include, a rabbi, a Buddhist nun, an incarnate Dalai lama, a Hindu Priest, and the president of the Islamic Society of North America, AND a Muslim musician.
They mean to be inclusive.
But instead they’ve just become foolish.
· All you need do is look at Buddhism and ask how much freedom it has produced in the nations where as many as a 1/3rd of their people often live in monasteries – isolated from the world.
· Or look at Hinduism and ask yourself how much freedom that religion has brought to its people where many people live and die in the “lower castes” where they struggle to exist.
· Look at Islam – how free are the people who live in nations controlled by that faith? Where the women often aren’t allowed to drive, wear normal clothing and are often beaten by their husbands. And where questioning Mohammed or Allah can bring the threat of pain and death.
Would you trade the freedom our nation enjoys - for theirs?
Of course not!
But in our nation’s capital, they don’t understand or care.
The simple fact of the matter is that Christianity has made America a Free Nation. And without Christianity’s influence our nation will slowly lose that freedom.
As President Ronald Reagan once said:
"America needs God more than God needs America.
If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God,
Then we will be a Nation gone under."
And we’re slowly drifting towards that.
We’re slowly drifting more and more away from God… and away from His freedom.
At the ceremony to dedicate the Freedom Tower – no public prayers will be offered.
Mayor Bloomberg - has decreed God would not be allowed at Ground Zero.
The Mayor wants freedom without God.
Then – there’s the “Freedom Tower” itself.
It’s not the Freedom Tower now.
They’ve renamed it.
It has a more inspiring name now: it’s called the “1WTC”
Now, there’s a name designed to bring inspiration to the heart!
There’s a name that makes people want to rise to their feet and shout with pride!
Why on earth would they call it that?
Well – they did that because the term “Freedom Tower” is too “in your face”.
It’s a name that speaks of a cause, that makes a “statement”.
But the government agency in charge of the new building isn’t into making statements.
All they want to do is rent the building… and they’re afraid the term “Freedom Tower” might scare away prospective clients.
And one of the first major tenants of the 1WTC will be the Chinese government.
(pause) There’s something just not quite right about that.
They didn’t really want Freedom, they just wanted tenants for their building.
But Government is like that.
Government cannot give us freedom.
It can celebrate it.
It can create an atmosphere of freedom
But governments cannot give true freedom… only God can do that.
God’s kind of freedom can exist even in a godless world.
God’s kind of freedom can liberate us even in the grip of tyranny.
Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
When Jesus spoke those words, Judea was held in the iron grip of Rome. And they remained in those chains for the rest of their existence. And when the Christian churches started up – they grew amidst persecution and martyrdom. The Government of that day didn’t want freedom, and they definitely didn’t want our God.
Christians died for their faith.
It was to people living in tyranny and oppression… and death… that Jesus said:
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!”
Because no government can give us that type of freedom and no government can take it away.
America is great because America is Free.
And America is free because God made it that way.
We are blessed to live in a nation where we still have the freedom to worship God
We should rejoice in that… and we should protect that privilege as long as we can.
We don’t need a Freedom Tower to have freedom.
And we don’t need the permission of Mayor Bloomberg to pray… and we never will.
So let’s do just that.
Let’s pray for our nation, and for those who have suffered so much because of the evils of Islamic terrorism.
The Freedom Tower speaks of freedom.
It speaks of the valor and sacrifice of great men and women who struggled to save others.
And it speaks of a symbol of life rising out of the ashes of death… and giving hope.
In the same way, the cross of Jesus (our tower of Freedom) speaks of our freedom.
It speaks of the sacrifice of someone who willing to die in our place… and save us.
And it speaks of life rising up out of the ashes of death … to give us hope.