Summary: Addresses the Attack on America, September 11, 2001
Introduction to Scripture Reading…
A few weeks ago we started a series of sermons on Colossians. Today we were to begin to move into the second chapter of that book. But this week we have experienced a tragedy that eclipses anything we could have imagined.
Among professors who teach seminary students how to preach, there is an old adage about how ministers should prepare their sermons with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The meaning, of course, is that the Bible addresses anything experienced in the life of a community.
So this week, we are departing from Colossians. The choir put aside their anthems and solos they had planned for today and presented what they felt was a more appropriate, more meaningful music. And likewise, Jason and I are putting aside our study of Colossians. Perhaps we will resume this study next week.
Our Scripture comes from Isaiah, chapter 40. In this passage, the people are coming to the end of a long national crisis. We are at the beginning of ours, but these people have been struggling for a long time. Still, there is in this passage a call to the Prophet Isaiah to speak to a people who have been in crisis. “Proclaim a message,” says the voice of God. “Cry out,” he says.
And in response, Isaiah asks, “What in the world can I cry out? All life fade away and whither like flowers in the field.” God’s response is to make clear a message of comfort for those in crisis. Let us hear the Word of God.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"(NIV)
In one of Elie Wiesel’s books, there is a wonderful yet troubling story of a man who lived in Europe during the Second World War. This man is a Jew living in a community where the Nazis have invaded. He’s very devoted to God, but he’s also a bit on the crazy side.
The day the Nazis invade, this man goes into hiding. When it is safe to do so, he comes out of hiding, runs to the synagogue, looks up at the ceiling and shouts – “You see God. We’re still here!”
After the Nazis invade, the German army begins a series of oppressive moves against the Jews. There are crack downs on the population. Occasionally, a number of the Jews are rounded up and put on trains, never to be seen again.
And each time this happens, this crazy little Jew goes into hiding. And when it is safe to do so, he comes out of hiding, runs to the synagogue, looks up at the ceiling and shouts – “You see God, We’re still here!”
But eventually, after one crack down after another, this crazy little man finds himself alone in his community – the last living Jew in town. As was his custom, after he felt it was safe, he came out of hiding. He walked into the Sanctuary, looked up at the ceiling, and whispered, “You see God, I’m still here.”
And after a moment’s pause, he adds, “But you God – where are you?”
On Tuesday morning we woke up to a routine day – but it didn’t say routine very long.
First, one plane crashed into the World Trade Center, and then another. There were reports of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. There were rumors about car bombs exploding outside the State Department. But none of the rumors were as bad as the reality. Many of you were probably watching television as the two towers of one of the largest building complexes on earth collapsed.