It was apocalyptic. People calmly boarded four jet planes, not realizing they were boarding jets that would be used by the terrorists who boarded with them as missiles. People went to work at the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon like they would any other workday. Life felt normal—and then nothing was normal. When I started thinking about remembering the fifteenth anniversary of that tragic morning, I started with the question, “What changed?” I quickly realized the more appropriate question is, “What didn’t change?”
The story of the United States is the story of a nation protected by oceans from the world’s worst conflicts. We go fight over “there.” But like Pearl Harbor in December 1941, we were attacked on American soil. The illusion of safety we’d managed to fabricate came crashing down with the Twin Towers. We lashed out. The longest war in United States history began in October 2001 as our military forces attacked Afghanistan. We next invaded Iraq in March 2003. Al-Qaida. The Islamic State of Iraq. Boko Haram. Enemies none of us knew we had. Lone attackers are now radicalized on the Internet by haters on the other side of the world. The Internet? In September 2001, just over half of American households had a computer, and less than half were “on line.”
Yes, September 11, 2001 was, and continues to be a defining moment in ways I’m not sure we can understand or appreciate even though it’s been fifteen years. I just know the world feels like a much more dangerous and unpredictable place, and it’s a fear that’s so much bigger than I am. There is nothing I can do to make it go away, but I can embrace the fear in the way Christians have embraced their fears for generations. They didn’t start with themselves—they started with God and established their identity there first so it was, and is, God who defines them, not the fear surrounding them.
The truth summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, which for me captures the truth of the Bible, starts with the question, “What is your only comfort in life and death? And answers…
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, but his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Jesus meets Mr. Rogers in passages like the hope and encouragement of John 16:33 when Jesus confirms in this life we’re going to have troubles, but in the midst of real life we can have peace because he promises that in the end it is all OK. Then there is the challenge of the practical instructions Jesus’ half-brother James offered in James 2:14-18 (See below). Because my future is secure, I can face the present challenges with faith and hope, not fear and despair. Terrorism depends on the fear of death and destruction to suck the oxygen out of our lives. Terrorism counts on us instinctively reacting solely out of self-preservation as a way of dividing and conquering. No longer can I follow Jesus into a hurting world if I’m digging a deeper hole to hide in. Jesus’ call to follow is a call to embrace and live into God’s kingdom even when all hell is breaking loose around us. It is a call to us, as a church, to trust that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the faith that declares, “Jesus is Lord.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
James 2:14-18 (The Message)
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
John 16:33 (NIV): “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world
Matthew 16:17-19 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
More Sunday…Here’s what I have on my desk…
MAKE YOUR DONATION FOR PEDAL FOR PROTEIN
The Presbytery is once again organizing a bicycle ride down the Northern Coast to raise funds that will help food pantries along the Northern Coast of California to provide protein-rich food such as Peanut Butter, Canned Tuna, Chicken and Milk to Families, Seniors and Children. All funds raised will be donated through local Food Banks. Our goal is $4000. Envelopes are available in the bulletin on Sunday or you can send your contribution directly to the church.
Sonoma Valley Ministerial Association is sponsoring a time or reflection, reverent silence, prayer and meditation. A time together for healing, forgiveness, resilience and love, entitled, CIRCLE OF CARE IN A WOUNDED WORLD—Wednesday, September 14th from 6:30-7:00PM on the Sonoma plaza. This event is open to the public—Please join us!
Now you know what I know…