Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 Commemoration - for Sunday at Calvary Presbyterian Church

The following statement will be read during a portion of the morning liturgy devoted to the memory of 9/11 ... at Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA.

We are Christians, above all else.
Our greatest loyalty is to the kingdom of God.
Our highest hopes are anchored in Christ.
Our daily life is built upon the character of God - God at work in all things, in all things for good … because God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.

September, 2001 … the church I served at the time, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Livonia, MI, was geared up to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary on Sunday, September 16 - people, from far and wide, had planned to attend the festivities and give thanks to God Almighty. 

And then, Tuesday, September 11, a day of national sorrow.

Several former pastors and others were unable to attend because of airline shutdowns. What had been planned as a festival became, as well, a time of mourning and soul-searching. In some parts of the country, churches, synagogues and mosques were filled to overflowing, and for some weeks, and even months, thereafter, people sought hope and solace in God’s love.

Ten years later, our country has been shaken by the mortgage meltdown, massive banking failure, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, political gridlock, high unemployment, world-wide financial distress, the Bernie Madoff scandal, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and perplexing questions about our future.

History offers some guidance.

From the get-go, when Cain killed his brother Able, human beings have excelled in the ways of killing. Of all God’s creatures, we are tragically skilled in violence. From Japan’s pillaging of Nanking, Hitler’s Holocaust and the Allied bombing of Dresden - to tens of thousands of starving children around the world amidst the brutal wars of genocide we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years, it is not a pretty picture. We who claim the name of Christ must spend a lot of time on our knees, praying for humanity and praying for the nations, pledging ourselves to be “the children of God,” those who are peacemakers. 

As Christians in America, it’s vital that we remember September 11, but do so with grace and perspective, choosing to live out of our hope and our dreams for a better world.

Ten years after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed into the streets of Manhattan and nearly 3000 people lost their lives in the blink of an eye, we must do several things today:
  1. Honor the memory of that tragic day with prayers and hope.
  2. Pray for the families who lost loved ones.
  3. Pray for the ticket agents, air traffic controllers and air force pilots - the burdens of memory are great!
  4. Celebrate the power of human resilience - while the survivors all carry painful memories of that day, so many of them have worked their way through the tragedy to find new life. Their stories of victory and success are a testimony to human courage and an inspiration to us all to never, ever, give up!
  5. Recognize the dedication of the first responders - public servants devoted to the public good, who put themselves into harm’s way, because this is their calling, this is their duty, this is their life.
  6. Pray for our nation.
  7. Pray for all the nations of the world, because God’s love is for all the world, all the nations, and all the peoples.
  8. Pray for peace, and devote ourselves to the ideas and behaviors that contribute to peace on all levels of life - family, work, neighborhood, church and school.
  9. Remember that we’re a strong nation with deep resources, and we needn’t live in fear. Yes, bad things might happen; no one person, and no nation, is immune to such things. Better to live in courage and trust. Better to know that our lot on earth is far better than many, and that, truly, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
  10. Practice forgiveness … and if it has to be raw forgiveness, do it. Forgiveness is always the healing of the soul.
  11. Practice what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemy” - this is not a sentimental journey, but a decision to do what’s right - to seek reconciliation where possible; to avoid violence and vengeance; to admit wrongs and confess sins; to seek the high road to life.
  12. Promise to live for Christ all the more - growing up into the knowledge of God’s purpose and love revealed in Christ - the reconciliation of all the world.
  13. Link arms with women and men of faith all around the world - Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus - anyone who does kindness, loves justice, and walks humbly with their God.
  14. And with the love of Christ secure in our hearts, love our nation and guide it to the better future.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address ends with these stirring and noble words:
… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Dear friends, dear Christian friends, walk in the footsteps of the Master - Go forth into the world in peace; Be of good courage; Hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint hearted. Support the weak. Help the afflicted. Honor everyone. Love and serve the Lord.
And to God be the glory. Amen and Amen!

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