Wednesday, September 11, 2013

As We Remember

Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God!
Memorial Service for Rescue Workers of 9/11 - October 2, 2001
Romans 8:18, 28-39


(I preached this sermon at a memorial service conducted with Rev. Steve Hyvonen three weeks after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, at St. James Lutheran Church. Both of us were serving as chaplains to the Shawano County Sheriff Department, and planned this special service for the emergency personnel of Shawano County. While this sermon was for a specific purpose, it has been requested by many as they deal with other traumatic life situations. As it has even been requested recently, it is being placed on the website that others may read it as well. There are those who found comfort in these words then, and there are those who still find this sermon to bring them comfort in their times of trial and anxiety. It is offered here in the hope it will bring you God's peace.)

 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It has been three weeks ago, today when America was attacked. Look at where the World Trade Center once stood - there is some suffering. You remember the TV news coverage, they were showing scenes and so you saw the carnage. Here, even some 1000 miles away, it seemed like you were there. It seems the topic of many discussions still, some 3 weeks later. What is being talked about? Maybe you have asked the question, Where was God in all this? How could God stand by and watch this happen?

It hits even closer to home because some of those who lost their lives were wearing uniforms - they wore uniforms because they were special. They wore uniforms that bespoke their courage and respect for the lives of others. That’s quite a contrast from the attitude of those who performed the treacherous deeds of September 11.

Today we gather to remember those who gave their lives that day, the rescue workers; firemen, police officers, and EMTs and their families. Those who served others came as they were called, they walked into a difficult situation that only got worse. Without flinching they stepped up and made an accounting. They have been called heroes - and they are - for they took no regard for their own life as they looked only to how they might save others. The numbers are not yet complete, but some 350 firefighters are dead of missing and more than 70 police officers.

Did you know someone there? Was there someone close to you who lost their life while trying to save others? It might not be so bad except for one thing, it was planned. These heros lost their lives because someone else took them. All the death and carnage was by design. Where was God in all this? How could God stand by and watch this happen?

Stop for a moment, take a deep breath and listen to a story. There was a man brought before the High Court of the land. They brought false charges against him. False witnesses gave their testimony. Even though their words didn’t agree and there was no proven charge against the man, the man was sentenced to death.

You know the man of whom I speak, you have heard the story. It is the message of God’s only Son and a Friday called, Good. How could it be good? God stood by and did nothing while His innocent Son was convicted in a kangaroo court. God watched as the perfection of the ages was made a mockery by pagans. The Father turned His back upon His Child of innocence, as His blood slowly dripped into the ground beneath the place where the nails pierced his hands and feet. Slowly, the Son died. Why God? Why your only, Son? Why did you stand by and do nothing? Why didn’t you get involved? Why? God, why did you let that perfect man, Your only Son suffer at the hands of evil men? Why, Lord, did you let the holy flesh of your innocent Son be pierced by the nails of pagan Romans? Why, Lord, did you stand by and do nothing while your own Son died?

In another place in Romans, it is written that the wages of sin is death. There is not a single person who is alive or who ever lived that isn’t under the condemnation of that verdict from the hand of God. Sin still corrupts the world today, just as it did in Jesus’ day. Sin in men, caused the death of others - some we today call heroes. Even the heroes were not perfect, they too were sinners.

The God who made Adam, made a promise to send One who would crush the head of Satan, who would defeat sin and evil in the world. That One was conceived in the womb of a virgin named Mary. God took on human flesh; innocent, perfect, holy flesh. He came to give His life as the ransom from sin. He came to suffer ridicule, pain, suffering, and a criminals death upon a cross.

So, some 2000 years ago, the Father wasn’t standing by doing nothing. He was taking out His wrath against sin upon His only Son. All our sins needed to be appeased, payment for our sinfulness had to come from somewhere. It came in the flesh broken and the blood which was shed by His only Son. God Himself came down to earth to suffer the pain of sin, and the Father sent Him for that purpose. It was by His choice that Christ suffered under the sinfulness of His fallen world that you and I might be freed from the grips of sin and death. It was by the Father’s choice that from the riven side of His holy child, blood and water flowed.

Why did God allow the tragedy to take place on Tuesday? We cannot answer that question with all certainty. We know that God did not cause it to happen. The cause was sin. But, know that God will use this for His purpose and to the good of His people.

Why didn’t God stop it? For Him to have stopped it, He’d have to put an end to all sinful flesh. To do that, judgement day would have to come - all flesh would be brought before Him - and it would be the end. As long as Christ has not returned, sin is still part of the human condition. And as long as sin is still part of the human condition, death and tragedy will be so as well. As long as Christ has not returned, there is the possibility that others will be called to repentance and faith in Christ.

The text from Romans before us starts with these words: ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’ Boy, who knew how tough that suffering would be. Who knew how heroes would give their lives? After all, heroes never die in the movies. Who thought that families would be shattered and lives lost?

The text continues: ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ Right now it is a little difficult to see the good. But it is there. There is a new national unity spreading. Look where you are tonight, praying for people you do not even know. You are grieving over those who you never met, but for whom you have a kindred spirit in your selfless service to others. See how a country has bent a knee and called upon God.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)

As the world around us seems so confused and lost, as we wonder why things happen, some things remain sure, cling to these things with all confidence. God knows suffering, for He suffered at the hands of evil men who hated Him, spit upon Him, beat Him, mocked Him and cried out for His innocent death. He knows of death and hatred for He was crucified by those who hated Him and screamed for His blood. He knows the frailty of mankind, for He walked with men and saw the frail existence and lived it with them.

This same God enfleshed is Jesus the Christ, has taken your sins and mine upon Himself so that you might be confident in this life. Be confident, you and I are conquerors - in Christ Jesus. Through God’s love, you and I will triumph over this life and its uncertainties - in Christ Jesus. While the world leaves you wondering, "what next," you have a confidence and sure hope - in Christ Jesus.

Paul tells you of your confidence and hope: Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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