By Pastor Susan J. Briner
Gut-wrenching, eye-popping scenes
Of airplanes flying into buildings
Bursting into flames
Of huge structures collapsing
Replayed over, and over, and over again
On TV, in newspapers, in our numb, foggy minds
How? Why? Who??
We stay glued to the TV set, the radio, hoping for answers
Wishing it were all just a bad dream,
that we could wake up from and go back to normal
So many lives lost,
So many people still missing,
So much destruction
Our nation’s safety, security destroyed in an instant
As terrorists did what we thought was impossible
hitting at the heart of our economic,
political and military centers, our very way of life
We may find ourselves asking questions like:
If God is really all powerful,
why didn’t he stop this from happening?
Does God really care about us??
Was this devastation God’s will for us?
Where is God in all this anyway?
Tough questions, and for us as Christians, they are bigger questions
Than those of who, how and why these attacks happened
For they can call into question our faith, our beliefs
And they can linger long after we find out answers about the terrorists
At its most basic, the answer of why the terrorists did this is that
we live in a fallen, broken world
A world marred by evil, hatred
A world where people
cannot give up on getting even.
Did God create this kind of world?
When God made the world, it was all good, as we read in the 1st chap. of Genesis.
God created humans, and they were good
God created humans with free will,
Because He loves us, and He wants us to freely love Him,
and to freely love one anotherBut we know, don’t we, that with free will, we have choices,
And with those choices, risks that we will make bad decisions,
to hate instead of love,
to get even instead of forgiving and moving on
as we humans have done time and time again
Starting in the Garden of Eden
as the terrorists did this week,
when in hatred they killed themselves
and thousands of othersAfter all the hatred, all the bad choices throughout history,
it might have been easier for God
to give up on the whole lot of us,
to lift his care from us, as Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell claimed this week
But that’s not what we know as the Gospel, is it?
For instead of turning his back on us,
God turned over his Son to us
Christ took all our hatred and anger and bitterness on himself,
as we nailed him to the cross
And he forgave us;
And he freely loved us
Just as he continues to do
What a paradox!
In the midst of the weakness, suffering and death of Christ on the cross
God shows us His power, His love
Just as God shows us his love in the midst of the suffering,
and death in our country this week
And God promises that nothing can get in the way of His love for us,
Not death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
This is the love that God demonstrated on the cross.
That’s where our security, our hope as Christians comes from
Not from the power and might of the U.S.
Not from bombs, nor guns, nor armed men and women
But from the certain hope that we have of God’s love
The certain hope that this fallen world that we live in is not the end of the story.
The whole of creation is groaning in labor pains now
But one day Christ will return, and our broken creation
will be transformed
and we will finally and fully be redeemed and renewed
Until then, we wait, not in despair, but in hope
Humans’ bad choices, NOT God’s will, caused the events of this week
yet God will turn even this evil to good
and we don’t have to wait for Christ to come again
in order to see God at work in our world, in spite of,
and through our brokenness
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose”, says St. Paul
So how is God turning this to good, in the midst of this disaster?
Where is God in all this?
God is in the miracles of the firefighters
who survived after being buried in the rubble for three days
He is in the thousands of people who have volunteered,
sent money, given blood,
offered their prayers, encouragement
God was in our prayer service this past week,
In the tears of the people
In the voices raised in prayer and in song
In the hugs and in the fellowship
After the service was over
God is drawing us, calling us to Him,
To comfort us, and so that we can comfort one another
Our call as Christians, adopted by God in our baptism
Is to reach out to those who aren’t feeling any hope right now,
Who know only despair
To assure them of God’s love for them
To point to where God is in all of this
To let them know that what’s happened now
is not the end of the story
and to share with them the promise of the eternal love of God in Christ Jesus
We are also called, as God’s children, to sow seeds of love
instead of seeds of hatred
It would be easy, after all that has happened,
to seek revenge,
to start labeling all Middle Easterners
or Muslims as “bad” or “evil”
much as we did with Japanese Americans in this country
after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Already, there have been numerous reports of vicious acts on Muslims
And Middle Easterners who live in this country
Yes, there were some radical folks who committed some atrocious, hateful acts
Just as there have been Jews, Christians,
Muslims and Atheists throughout history
who have made bad decisions,
fueled by hatred, rather than love
But these terrorists no more represent the majority of Muslims
Than David Koresh and Jim Jones represented us as Christians
Please don’t misunderstand me.
I am not saying that those who attacked us should not be brought to justice.
But rather that we as Christians open our hearts,
rather than harden them, toward
our Islamic brothers and sisters,
most of whom I daresay grieve alongside with us
Today, in the midst of our pain, our anger, our grief
The Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts
To draw us closer to God
And closer to our neighbors in love rather than in hate
To help us to make good choices, rather than bad ones
in how we react to what has happened
As we come together in worship,
as we lift our voices to God in prayer and in song
when we feast at the Lord’s table
we can be strengthened, renewed, to go back out into the world
and show others God’s love for them in Christ Jesus
knowing that in the midst of our pain and suffering God is at work,
turning the evil to good, working out God’s purposes
I invite you now, to sit here in silence and reflect on where you have experienced
God in all this, and to offer your silent prayers that others may also see
God’s presence in the midst of their own pain and suffering
Even if you don’t have the strength to offer these prayers yourself,
Know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
Copyright 2008, Susan J. Briner. Used by permission.