Sermon Rally Day – September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

I remember.
I remember the blue sky, the sparkling sunshine,
that spoke peace on a perfect autumn day in Gettysburg.
I remember the friend who blurted out the news, his eyes wide
and his voice shaking.
I remember holding Michael in my arms as I watched replays
of the towers coming down.
I remember eating dinner with our new neighbors,
the new seminary student a retiree from the U.S. Army,
who was not only angry but afraid
because he knew just what his former comrades-in-arms
were getting ready to do.
I remember the next day calling another retired Army officer,
who had grown up a Norwegian Lutheran on Long Island
and now pastored in Alexandria, Virginia,
miles from where he had served at the Pentagon.
I remember the man I had studied with
who had just taken first call in a little church in the Allegheny Synod
not far from Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I remember.
I remember having class scheduled in Washington on September 13,
and trying to convince Annette that Washington
was the safest place in the world – on that day.
I didn’t convince her.
I remember that except for the U.S. Air Force and Navy,
the birds had the skies to themselves for the first time in almost a century.
I remember Katie Grace’s baptism the next Sunday,
and the party we had on the lawn, looking over to monuments of another war,
a war that cost far more American dead
but lasted less than half of the ten years since September 11, 2011.

But now we will remember 9/11 for another reason as well.
When 9/11 is mentioned around here,
we will have to think not only of September 11, 2001,
but of September 2011,
as we watched the floodwaters rise again,
or for the first time in our lives.
Most of us were spared.
Once again we look to our east and see devastation wrought upon our countrymen
and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are struck with overwhelming amazement
and depression and what can we do to help.
We will remember sitting in front of our televisions
and watching the waters rise.
Some will remember moving valuables and leaving behind what they could not carry.
And some will be traumatized by the memory,
while for others the memory will galvanize them into action.
Brothers and sisters, in the shadow of the flood,
in the shadow of the terror,
we remember.
And what do we remember as well?
We remember as well that sense of community that came,
if even for a little bit,
As do those among you who remember the Second World War,
we remember the togetherness, the unity, and wonder if it takes crisis to get it back.
Yes, it does.
“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,”
Joseph tells his brothers, and so they are reconciled.
Jesus says that every crisis of betrayal is an opportunity for reconciliation.
And it could be that 9/11, whether September 11, 2001, or September 2011,
is opportunity for reconciliation.
The danger is not so much there.
It is those miniscule betrayals, those seemingly insignificant attacks
on our egos and on our beliefs, and on our faith,
that build up and isolate us and make us believe that we cannot go on,
we cannot return anything but wrath for wrath and that there is nothing positive
that can grow out of life.

Peter asks, “How many times must I forgive?”
Once again, he has his finger upon the pulse of humanity.
This is not Peter’s issue. It is my issue.
Part of me wants to forgive,
and part of me wants to condemn.
We feel that the betrayal that builds up eventually will overwhelm us,
the flood waters will drown us,
the attacks will destroy us and that the only way to save ourselves is to lash out
against our opponents.
We need to remember – remember that our enemies are not flesh and blood but spiritual,
remember that our fight is not with people but with sin, death, and the devil,
remember that there is nothing that can separate us from Christ.
If repeating the same things over and over is the only thing that works for me,
then it might be true that it is the same thing that works for you.
We shouldn’t look down on Peter as if he somehow is worse than us.
Thanks, Peter, because you’ve put your finger on exactly what I feel.
How many times must I forgive, because I’m sick of forgiving people.

Jesus tells a story – a man who was forgiven everything
and then refused to forgive a trifle,
because he forgot – he forgot that his sins were greater than any trifle,
he forgot that God was merciful and assumed that God was a God of vengeance.
For those who believe that God is a God of vengeance, he doesn’t disappoint.
This man didn’t believe in forgiveness, he believed in justice.
He wanted mercy for himself, but he wanted punishment for someone else.
We look on a person like that and we think “how disgusting.”
I point the finger and I find three pointing back at me.
I am the man!
I am the one who wants punishment, justice, vengeance.
This is why Jesus needs to tell me to REMEMBER – remember to forgive,
remember to have mercy, remember to come back to yourself.
Remember that when Satan means things for evil, God brings about good.
Free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq – should we have gone over there?
Who knows? Are things perfect there? No.
Democratic revolutions in the Middle East – are things perfect there? no.
Uncountable individual acts of heroism here in our Pennsylvania.
Will things be perfect here? no.
Remember – remember that God has the power to renew our lives.
And that when we sin again, which we will,
God will be ready to forgive seventy-seven or seventy-times seven
or seven thousand times seven thousand times seven thousand.

We need to remember.
To worship is to remember the mighty acts of God,
they are happening in our own day, in our own lives,
and to celebrate that.
When we remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins,
our petty hatreds and refusals to forgive will be challenged and eventually overcome.
To study is to remember the mighty acts of God,
to learn them so deeply so that they become our first refuge in time of trouble.
To support with our work and our finances is to remember the mighty acts of God,
that God can do amazing things if we will only let him.
If we will not support this church with our offerings,
we are saying that we don’t believe and trust that God works through this congregation.

But if we desire it, this church can be filled with children again,
because God is powerful. Amen?
If we desire it, we can grow deeper in Christ and know God’s Word for our lives,
because God is powerful. Amen?
If we desire it, we can stop worrying about earthly things like money
and start worrying about heavenly things. Amen?

This congregation by the Holy Spirit is being called to grow in Christ.
When you hand in your pledge cards today,
pledging to be here in worship every possible Sunday,
pledging to plumb more deeply the riches of God’s word,
pledging to give more of yourself so that we can continue to share his blessing,
you are remembering that God is faithful and that God is the one
who will cause our growth in his Son.

I remember where I was and who I was with on September 11, 2011,
I remember where I was and who I was with in September 2011,
and I will remember that God himself remembered me,
on a cross outside of Jerusalem,
when my sins laid him low,
he remembered me and my need.
We remember and we repent and we recommit ourselves to him and to each other.
Now and forever.

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