September 11th, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Nothing is more horrific than to watch a multitude of people free-fall into the abyss. Nothing is more paralyzing than to see in slow-motion the innocent slaughtered by demonic forces masquerading as the final arbitrators of God’s holy will. Nothing is more devastating than to witness the destruction of innocent human life in an evil attempt to wipe out an entire people.
For each of us, ten years doesn’t seem like ten years when it comes to the wounds and hurt and despair of having your whole world suddenly collapse in all around you. Whether it is a ten or fifty or one hundred or one thousand year anniversary of an event of terror — we are still connected to the carnage and chaos of men bent on snuffing out the lives of others in the name of God himself.
We try to forget. We try to put it out of our mind. We try to pick up life as it was before the tragedy, but somewhere deep in our heart we know that it will never be the same again. It just will never be the same. Talk to those who fought in war. Talk to those who fought against devastating diseases. Talk to those who have survived through disaster and tragedy and loss and the horrors of forces bent on indiscriminately ending human life. It can never be the same.
So it is with this day. We remember the burden we now bear — the incomprehensible burden of trying to heal from those tragedies in our life that few words can express. Tragedies and disasters that effect the entire world — effect our entire world, seemingly forever. Events that lay bare not only own own vulnerability but the real, in-your-face temptation to begin to believe that there is, at the end of the day, at the end of our life, nothing left for us but the darkness of the pit and a remote hope that something about us will be remembered — at least for a while.
Today we remember. Today families and friends and fellow citizens remember the events that paralyzed not only New York and Washington, D.C. and southwestern Pennsylvania, but all within earshot of a radio or in viewing distance of a television screen.
We have been brought to begin this day under our Lord’s Word as his Church. Gathered to remember the words of the Psalms, to confess our Christian faith and sing our Christian faith and pray our Christian faith, to mourn once again for the condition of a wold gripped in chaos, a humanity gripped in apprehension and uncertainty and anxiety, a people unable to forget — unwilling to forget the events that bring into clearer focus what dwells in the sinful heart of that fallen humanity we have become.
It is proper that the first thing out of our lips this morning is a remembrance — of who we have become: a fallen and sinful people who’s hearts and minds and spirits fail every time we put our trust in anything outside of God and the grace and mercy and deliverance and strength and courage found in Christ alone.
“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.” we say in the words of Psalm 97.
If Christ had not been our redeemer, we would have no lasting, no redeeming, no truly sustaining words to say on days like 9/11, on days when a child or parent is taken from us, on days when our loved one is suddenly no longer gathered with us around the table.
Before the world we cry out for defense of our neighbor and care for the casualties of a world gone senseless. We are called as a community and nation to protect ourselves and family and loved ones from the ravages of all that would snuff out God’s precious gift of human life. But as we pray for those who’s job it is to serve and protect and defend, we also pray for our enemies — pray for even those we may never forgive, that their hearts may somehow be turned to repentance and faith in Christ by his eternal Word.
Ten years ago, people just like you and me confessed in unbelief and horror: “This doesn’t make any sense.” And ten years later, too much of what happened on 9/11 still is beyond our comprehension.
This morning millions of people will re-live that moment when twin towers fell, when passenger jets were seized for demonic ends, when what should have never happened — unbelievably — happened.
And where do we flee to make sense of a world that no longer makes any sense? Where do we look when our eyes are seared with images too horrific for words? Where does our Lord direct us when the atrocities of a world out-of-control threaten to plunge us into the thick and cold darkness of despair and death?
Faith would have us believe the seemingly unbelievable: that God’s saving work hidden in Christ is greater than the forces that bring disease and death and human suffering to so many — to the entire human race.
Who, our old nature wonders, will have the last word when life is taken from us? And our God-created and sustained nature quietly answers, “Our Almighty and merciful Lord and his Word of promise.”
What will define and make sense on days like today? On days when there seems to be no sense to be found. On days we are too weak to fight anymore. On days we have given up any hope of rescuing ourselves or any of those around us.
The God revealed through the prophets and apostles would point us to the one event that continues to define all others. The day that heaven and earth covered their eyes with darkness. The day that the Innocent One was slaughtered by demonic forces masquerading as the dispensers of God’s will. This was the devil’s ultimate attempt to crush redemption for a fallen humanity — for you and me and those we love — and those we believe we can never love.
It is at the cross that Christ does the unimaginable. He takes your sin and your neighbor’s death and your enemy’s fate — upon himself. And that, my friend, should bring true terror to you heart and tears to your eyes. The spotless Lamb of God, for the sake of an entire undeserving, bent-on-it’s-own-destruction world, makes satisfaction for not only those we would give our very lives for — but for those we may never bring ourselves to forgive.
Christ is the once-for-all revelation that is the final Word on the forces of disease, destruction and death bent on silencing human life. And faith in Christ believes, even as it grieves and mourns, that with our Lord’s to-death sacrifice in our place, everything has changed.
Death swallowed up by Christ’s death. Suffering re-defined by the Lord’s own Suffering Servant. Disease undone by the One who has sealed us with his Baptism and Spirit and the promise of a redeemed creation.
The holy One of God, the only-begotten Son from heaven abandoned by his loving Father as he receives the wrath poured out on sinners and law-breakers as his mother cries out at the foot of the cross, “This cannot be happening.” As the disciple John cries out, “This makes no sense.”
Some things in life we cannot forget, as much as we try, as much as we attempt to move on and leave it behind. We just can’t forget, especially when it comes to sin and the effects of sin that make us poor, miserable people in a poor and miserable world.
But Christ has come to deliver us and the world in the most unimaginable way, by being the lightening rod for God’s all-consuming wrath for all human sin and hatred and evil.
The world, when suddenly confronted with the effects of its own sin, cries out with meaningless words, “O my God.” But faith created by the Word made flesh and blood and bone cries out, “Lord, have mercy. Lord, save us according to your mercy and grace and forgiveness. Christ, have mercy on me and all who would believe in you and your sacrifice. Kyrie eleison.”
In these last days, we cannot but remember the gracious gifts given to us and to the world — all because of Christ — even in the midst of days like 9/11. Especially in the midst of days like 9/11.
Christ has taken into himself all that would separate us from the mercy and love of God, that we might grieve, but grieve with hope. That we might share each others burdens, but with faith that we will never be abandoned or forsaken by our Lord.
For it is Christ and Christ alone who was handed over, delivered up, poured out at the ground zero of Calvary, to announce to the world, “Your salvation is fulfilled. Your redemption is complete. Your rescue is established — in me — for eternity.”
This is our hope in the face of tragedy. Our redemption in the face of pain and suffering. Our victory when nothing makes sense, save Christ and his un-ending love for us. Love that has the last word on sin, death and the devil.
May we always be found under the shadow of God’s grace and his life-giving Word that raised Christ Jesus from the grave, and with him, all who would believe.
And the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, will guard you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen