Summary: When our world collapses and we are left with fear, we respond with courage, faith and patience
Tuesday, the world changed. The world was different when you went to be Tuesday night than when you went to be Monday night. The world as we have known it has changed. And I don’t just mean that the skyline of New York City is different. I mean the world as we had known it.
The scripture gives a picture of it. The earth has given way and the mountains have fallen into the heart of the sea. It reminds me of an image of the existentialist philosopher Camus that has stuck with me since I shared it in a sermon years ago. He says we all have worlds that we build around us like a stage set that we play our lives out on. But sometimes something will happen when our stage sets fall flat. I, like a good portion of America, feel drawn to the television where I have been watching all week some of my stage sets fall flat. And I don’t think the world will ever be quite the same.
This is what I see having happened this week to the American people. The events of this week in New York and Washington, D.C. have elicited in us our greatest fears. Whatever our greatest fears are as a nation, as individuals, those fears that we have set up our stage sets to control as best we can, those stage sets have come down with the horrible events of this past week, and our fears have come right to the surface. I’ve seen this in the ministry that I’ve done this past week: Those people who live with their fears near the surface, they have come right to the top, and they are having a real hard time this week. All of us are having a hard time this week. Many of our securities have come crashing down. And the first and greatest response that I see driving much of what people are doing is fear – just simple, deep fear. Fear is the source of much anger, denial, bargaining, frustration, panic, guilt. And while a grieving process, and some of those feelings are appropriate, we cannot be driven by fear. Fear may be healthy to make us aware of some things we need to be aware of. We need to be aware that we are the edge of that cliff. But we need courage and wisdom, not fear, to carefully step back.
This morning, I want to look at a Christian response to the events of this past week, to our stage sets falling flat - to our security, the world we have come to know falling flat. I want to mention three characteristics of Christians during these times. And I believe these characteristics would make us a witness to the world during these times. They are all in the passage for this morning.
The first response we must have is courage. “Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, …we will not fear.” Boy, have you seen courage these past few days. Two stories stick with me the most. The first is a comment about firefighters being a different breed. When buildings are on fire, most people run out of them. Firefighters run into them. And I remember one woman calmly telling her story of walking down from the eightieth floor. But she broke down when her story came to the 15th floor where the firefighters passed them on their way up.
The other story is of the people on the hijacked plane who were on the phone with their families, coming to learn that other hijacked planes had been flown into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I remember one woman telling the story of her 20 minute conversation with her husband on the plane. Over and over again, they shared their love. They spoke seriously and somberly, but with no panic. She knew what it was to confirm that knowledge of what the other planes had done to her husband. And he told her that some of them were realizing they needed to resist the hijackers. It’s clear they came to the realization that if they could not save themselves, they needed to save others. And they gave their lives. It is an amazing picture of courage.
Now, courage is not exclusive to Christians. But for Christians, it has a particular and singular source. Our courage comes from faith. That is the next response I want to speak of to the loss of our world. We must respond with faith.
To many I have spoken to this week, it is their faith that has been shaken. Fear coming to the surface has shaken their faith. “How could a good God do such a terrible thing?” And for all those who see judgment in what happened this past week, I believe we need to make a significant distinction in how we see what happened. What we saw was evil. It was not an act of God.