Like an exposed sore that never heals but becomes infected now and then, the memories of 9/11 refuse to go away. That is not all bad. We cannot forget or take for granted the sacrifice so many made that day and the thousands who have given so much in the eleven years since, including sacrificing their own lives. Last year I struggled to give proper honor in a sermon to those who have given so much not only for me, but also for all those I know and love. As I wrote, I was reminded how God deals with the pain of unspeakable evil. It is a timeless lesson for healing. I think my thoughts from a year ago still ring true. They follow…
See you in church,
(originally written September 12, 2012)
Sometimes sermons are quite easy to write. As I look at the assigned Bible passage, the divine words seem to speak to me with a clear message that begs to be applied to the lives of those who will gather for worship. These are fun sermons to prepare.
Then there are other times when the message isn’t quite as clear. These are the times when I wonder why this particular Bible passage was chosen as the assigned reading for the day. I need to write numerous outlines and explore various approaches, even as I become more than a little frustrated. Eventually, by the grace of God, it always seems to come together before the 5:00 p.m. Saturday service.
It’s always a challenge to relate the words of scripture in such a way that people can take what I’m saying and apply it to their lives today, and in the days to come. Still, preparing a sermon for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 presented me with more challenges than I ever expected…challenges like how to remember, honor, comfort, pay tribute to those heroic first-responders, avoid political inference, and so much more. There is an adage for seminary students, “expect to spend an hour in study for each minute you preach.” Well, the 9/11 sermon exceeded that principle significantly!
To be honest with you, as I prepared the message for 9/11 I found myself finally coming to terms with the tragedy. Realizing how significantly the attack changed my life and the lives of those near and dear to me made me angry. And certainly, the effect of the tragedy on my life is miniscule in comparison to the thousands who lost someone near and dear to them, from the initial attack or the wars that followed. How dare those evil terrorists bring such lasting pain to countless families!
Preparing this sermon forced me to accept the fact that forgiveness brings healing, even in this extreme case. Healing quenches the anger so we can move on. It sounds so simple, until you actually embrace and apply it. But that is indeed God’s way of dealing with the pain of unspeakable evil. We cannot allow the acts of evil to constantly hold us back from our goals. That is a powerful lesson from a horrible event.
Sunday was not only the anniversary of 9/11; it was also “the Sunday after Labor Day,” traditionally the start of the new Sunday School year at Immanuel. So I had the privilege of bringing the children to the altar along with all the adult volunteers who will teach Sunday school, lead the Wednesday night Kids in Christ’s Kingdom (K.I.C.K) program, and staff our nursery. Those under 14 years of age know very little, if anything, about 9/11, yet it affects them in countless ways too. I reminded the teachers and other staff that we are a Team… a team in ministry together for those little ones gathered at the altar. I charged them to simply teach the children about Jesus. We prepare these children for the future… an uncertain future here on earth, and one that certainly requires a strong faithful relationship with the One that has defeated evil, Jesus Christ.
There will be more anniversaries of the 9/11 attack to remember with more sermons to prepare. It is good to remember history. However may this be the only terrorist attack of such magnitude that we need to remember! Pray for those who protect our country.