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Belonging

September 11th 2011 by Joel Schultz

September 11th, 2001 is a date that many hold clearly in their memory. On this the 10th anniversary of the horrific and tragic terrorist attack, many still ask, "Where was God on that day?" We are tempted to ask that same question amid all the pain and difficulty of life, but God's answer remains the same, "I am with you always." Read to find out more...

Pentecost 13A (Proper 19A) – Romans 14:1-12(/dailybread/scripture/romans%2014:1-12/) – “Belonging” – September 11, 2011

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on November 22, 1963? That was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Or how about July 20, 1969? That was the day astronaut Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on the moon. What about January 28, 1986, the day the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, obliterating the aircraft and all seven of its passengers headed excitedly toward space. And April 19, 1995? Do you remember why that date remains, sadly, in the annals of the recent history of our country? It was the day of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, of which Timothy McVeigh was convicted years later.

Now, as careful listeners, you know what’s coming next: Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard the news that terrorists had hijacked two passenger planes and crashed them into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center, causing the collapse of both and the death of more than 2,700 people? And there would be more. Within moments, another airliner crashed into the Pentagon, causing the death of 125 more people. And, finally, there would be the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 and the brave response by passengers and crew that prevented those terrorists from doing even more damage but resulted in the plane crashing into a Pennsylvania field, killing all 64 persons onboard.

I remember that I was listening to my 7th grade memory work before school got started. As I walked into the office at 8am I was greeted with the news and walked in the senior pastor’s office in time to see the second plane hit at 8:02. We sat and watched in sadness and horror for the next few hours as events unfolded.

Nearly 3,000 men, women, and children murdered in the name of extremists who call themselves religious. I suspect the images of that day, September 11, 2001, have somewhat faded but certainly have not been lost ten years later. That day, if you recall, those images wrenched our hearts and subdued our lips and stirred our souls. That day, we had a common enemy. That day, there was a sense of patriotism not seen for many years.

The country came together; we hurt together; we clung together; we cried together, as one “nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” We had a renewed sense of gratitude for those fire, police, and military women and men who were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in the pursuit of saving property and lives. And we have so many in our country today who are continuing to respond to that need.

Soon, in November 2001, our nation went to war, in Afghanistan first, later in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was captured and executed. Osama bin Laden, the most wanted of our named enemies, was finally found just recently and executed.

Ten years later, the war goes on, and the country is not so united. Focus has turned to illegal immigrants and the economic recession, unemployment and the populace of this great nation has become more surly and distrusting of government and politics. We’ve turned more inward, and the enemy has become us!

And, ten years later, studies show that September 11 has not changed the patterns of worship in Christian churches. Despite the fact that many of them were filled following the tragedy in 2001 and just one year later, worship in America was back to what it had been before.

Frankly, this day, this tenth anniversary of 9/11, is not so much about our country, our once-designated heroes, our elusive enemies, and most certainly not about the current political scene. This day, as is every Lord’s Day, is about our timeless, great, and grace-filled God!

Nine years ago, on the first anniversary of 9/11, there was a presentation aired by PBS titled “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.” It asked the question “Where was God on September 11?” The question itself is age-old and has been asked many, many times in moments of crisis. In the Old Testament, men of faith from Jacob to Joseph and from Job to Jonah asked it.

You have probably even voiced that question amid the struggles and pains and heartaches of your life. Where was God when my marriage fell apart? When my spouse died? When I lost my job? When is God as I struggle to pay the bill? As I/ my loved one struggles with sickness/ cancer?

And God always and forever responds the same way: “I am where and who I have always been, and always will be. I am almighty, and I shall show that unparalleled power ultimately at the Last Day. In the meantime, because this world is filled with sinful people, there will be wars and bloodshed and terrorists and hurt and grief and sickness and death and untold pain. But never, ever think that I have lost control of the world I have created and judged and redeemed through my Son, Jesus Christ. If you think, even for a second, that I have left you or forsaken you, then take another, closer look at the cross and the empty tomb.”

Therein is the Christian’s perspective of faith. In fact, Paul talks about that in our text from Romans today: “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (vs. 7-9).

If we are to reclaim or rediscover or be renewed in our faith, it is by looking to the cross. For, in deed and in truth, we Christians see all events through a picture of Calvary, where Christ died for our sins and for the sins of all humanity. So, regardless of what happens in this world or to God’s people, we live and die as people of God. We belong to the Lord through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

God’s perfect love for us, says the apostle John, “casts out fear” (v 18) — fear of more terrorist attacks, fear of flying, fear of known and unknown enemies of our country, fear of nuclear buildups, fear of economic downturns, and unemployment. God’s perfect love casts out fear of sickness and disease, of our own certain mortality, and even the fear of the righteous and eternal judgment of God. For we live and die in forgiveness; we live and die in grace; we live and die in God’s love – because we belong to the Lord.

The power of God’s love in Jesus Christ sustains us, strengthens us, and supports us, as surely as it did throughout the weeks and months following 9/11 and forevermore. Amen.

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