National Day of Prayer
September 14, 2001 Holy Cross Day Evening Prayer
Job 38:1, 4-11, 16-18, Genesis 4:2b-16, Galatians 3:23-28, Mark 12:28-34a.
Originally, I had not planned to preach for this service, but simply to lead a service of prayers appropriate for us to pray in the midst of this terrible attack on our country and its ongoing aftermath.
But so many have requested a word, and so with some fear and trembling (especially since Billy Graham has already set the standard at noontime) let me try to venture a faithful response.
The first most-repeated question I have heard in these days is: Why did God let this happen? I supposed there are many answers and even more non-answers to this question, so here is mine: God let this happen because God is faithful. God made the world and everything in it. As he had to teach Job, He made people, he made air, he made sea and land, he made it all. And the amazing thing about it, perhaps the most amazing thing, if you stop to consider it, is how it hangs together, all of it, the stupendously huge universe, in a certain dear and precious balance.
We breath in, and there is air for us.
We jump up, and there is gravity to settle us back down.
We eat food and we grow.
Hot air and cold air mix, and there is rain.
The earth spins away from the sun and it is winter,
and the seeds settle into the earth to be reborn in springtime.
God is faithful, and we have taken great advantage of that. So now, in the same way that the sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening.
The lights come on when we flip the switch
The car starts when we turn the key
At a certain weight, rightly balanced The same plane lifts into the air when it reaches a certain speed, every time.
When the pilot turns right, the plane turns right.
Pull the stick back, up, push forward, down.
I dare you to imagine a world where this didn't happen.
Imagine that some days the sun came up, and other days the world just stopped turning for a while and we had a week of nights on one side and a week of days on the other. Anyone want to get in a car that goes right sometimes when you turn the wheel that way, but other times it turns left? and other times doesn't turn at all?
God is faithful and so is the world that he made for us to live in and just so, only so, are we able to live in it in any meaningful way at all. So we see how faithfulness is an essential part of God's relationship to the world. But we see also how faithfulness, is so easy to take advantage of.
So the question becomes, why would anybody want to? Why would anybody want to take advantage of a good and faithful God and use that faithfulness that made the world, to destroy it? That's always been the question. That's not a new question this week. People have been getting mad and misunderstanding each other and killing each other for as long as there have been people. People have looked at the great variety of shapes and colors and sizes we come in, and have seen the great variety of thoughts that we think and dances that we dance and songs that we sing and the pride we take in our various accomplishments.
And sometimes they see beauty and sometimes ugliness. Sometimes joy and sometimes jealousy. So it has gone for the human race. As unique and horrible as these events seem to be, let us not misunderstand. God did not stop Cain when he raised his hand against Abel, And he did not stop these hijackers. And he has not stopped anyone in between who really wants to take advantage of the faithfulness of God. And afraid as I am to think about it and what it means he will not stop us either.
We have a burden of history, brothers and sisters, that if you bother to read it, will make you humble your patriotic American soul before God and repent for all the times that this people has taken advantage of the faithfulness of God, and rained down hell fire and destruction on the innocent. Slavery, abortion, Cambodia, Hiroshima and Nagasaki just to name some obvious ones. And sure, every one of those had a reason, maybe a good reason …one that seemed good to someone at the time.
So let us sing the Battle Hymn, but let us listen to the words: it is God's truth that is marching on and the truth is often a harsh and blinding light. Simple revenge will simply not do.
Abel's blood cried out from the ground for vengeance, but God, looking down, saw clearly what we can all see if we look: that vengeance will simply eliminate the human race. So he set Cain to wandering with a warning on his head a warning to all of us, it seems to me, of the dangers of simple vengeance. The story of Cain and Abel sort of peters out there, But the bloodshed of this week still cries out, and we are promised: not by God, but by our leaders: there will inevitably be an answer.
How will Christians respond? How shall we pray? How will we pray Jesus' our Lord's prayer to forgive us our sins if we must also forgive those who have sinned against us?
Once again, it's not a new question. But hard enough as it is in the best of circumstances for individuals to be faithful and to practice forgiveness in our lives, how much harder for nations and peoples to think in this way? Such faithfulness as forgiveness is as easily taken advantage of as God's faithful creation.
So let us pray that, our nation will seek if not vengeance then at least justice. But let us understand that it will be hard to find. And let us now pray that our leaders will be wise enough and brave enough to act humbly enough, so that the world will know -- so that our enemies, whoever they are, will know -- that they are not simply receiving the vengeance of a nation enraged by the scent of our own blood, and the pain of our wounds.
Let them know that we are capable of rising above that temptation and that rising above it this nation will act faithfully to defend its own hard-won freedoms, but for a reason, and God willing, this reason - So that we can continue to shine as a beacon of hope and faith in the world and consistently and faithfully bear witness to the power and necessity of liberty and justice for all. Our one nation of many peoples, has influenced many nations and many more peoples.
Despite our shortcomings and very real sins, and the constant temptations to hoard what we have, America in its best moments has tended the hope that someday all the peoples of the earth might live together in peace and prosperity. and has done and shared much for the sake of that hope.
Let us pray that from this tragedy might come opportunities to advance the cause of liberty and democracy among the nations, even among our enemies. Just think in the past century we have counted Germans, Italians, Japanese, Russians, Koreans, and Vietnamese among others, as our sworn enemies. By the turn of this new century we have experienced, sometimes drastically, sometimes more minimally, but always powerfully the fact that we can not only forgive our enemies, but strengthen them as allies and friends.
What hope is there that this might again happen? Simply that in Christ, there is neither Jew, nor Greek, male nor female, slave or free, but all one in Christ Jesus. The ultimate sign of God's faithfulness to the world, the cross of Jesus Christ's death, is the sign that he loves us, all of us, in the way that we find it so hard to imitate.
He loves us in the way of faithfulness, that makes itself vulnerable, but will not turn back, though disaster and evil threaten. He gives us hope that our lives are not only in our own hands, but his, lives, gifts he has given us to use faithfully, for the good of all.
If we must turn now and use the vast arsenal of weapons at our disposal, instead of just the threat of them, let us pray that we do not in vengeance destroy ourselves as well. Let us be cleansed from our sins and simply do what must be done so that liberty and justice and peace might flourish for God's people everywhere.
If we can do for the world, what we would have our neighbors do for us, that is, if we could love our neighbors as ourselves, then we have Jesus' assurance: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." May it come to pass.
And may all who have died in this terrible beginning, of what
we do not yet know, be remembered as witnesses to the horrors of vengeance, and
may their blood, as the blood of martyrs, nourish the seeds of tomorrow's
justice and peace.
A sermon by a young pastor,
Contributed by John Renaud
This event in the history of the world is so momentous and important that it needs a special page on this web site. Some of what is found here is shared from other sources and some is the result of my thoughts inspired by the events and their aftermath.
National Day of Prayer
World of Grandpa Don