Todd A. Peperkorn, STM Holy Cross Lutheran Church Rocklin, California September 10, 2011 Evening Prayer On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
TITLE: “With the Lord there is Mercy”
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for tonight is from Romans 8, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
It seems like just yesterday that we all met and prayed together around the world. The images were fresh in our mind. There was numbness and a state of shock over this horrible thing that had been done to our country. The days and weeks and months and years have changed the way we look at the world. There is a suspicion and a fear that was not really present a decade ago. All you have to do is go through an airport security system to see that. Or see one walking down the street with a funny headscarf. Or the wrong colored skin, whatever color that may be.
At the same time, though, the world hasn’t stopped, has it? Airlines continue to do business, children keep on going to school, life goes on. The years have numbed us to the pain of that dreadful day. But it has left many of us with a feeling of doubt, of questioning what this world is really all about, that human beings can do such horrible things to each other in the name of truth or religion or freedom or whatever the cause of the day may be.
There is one thing we have gained after being a decade away from this terrible event: I hope there is a little more sense of history about us. This was a horrible thing, but it is one more episode in life under sin in this world. We could add other events of the last century to the list: Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges in the 1930s, the martyrdom of Christians in Africa under Islamic regimes, the Sudan, and many other events in recent memory have taught us that human beings are capable of almost unbelievable evil against each other. That is the Law speaking to us in the harshest terms. Sin leads to death. That is the only place it can go. And it will come.
This, of course, is not even including so-called natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina has come and gone since 9-11. Haiti. The Tsunami in Indonesia. So much death, so much suffering in so many places and ways, that we hardly even register it anymore.
So where are we to place our hope as children of God? Very simply, we place our hope in Jesus Christ alone. No matter what the tragedy, no matter what the event, the mercy of God shines through bright and clear. How do we know this? How do we know that even in the midst of death and pain, that our Lord’s love comes through? We know this because of the cross of Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. There is no power too great, there is no hatred too strong that God cannot overcome. For you see, all of the wrath of God toward sin was carried out in the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, all of God’s righteous anger at our sinfulness died with Him. God is not angry with you for your mistakes or your mess ups. In the midst of things we cannot understand, both natural and man-made, all we can do is cling to the cross. Now this is hardly settling for second best. After all, as St. Paul says, He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? He only wants what is best for you, and because of His Son, Jesus Christ, you can know for certain that God is in your corner, fighting for you.
This is the only place where we can place our hope. We cannot place our hope in fallen and sinful man. We cannot place our hope in the good of the world or that everything will improve over time. We cannot reconcile such pain and heartache. We can’t brush it aside. No, Jesus Christ is the only hope for you and I. As Jesus Himself said, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the one who will can heal your sorrows and dry your tears.
The hard thing for us is that we still live in this mess. People still die. You don’t have to go to New York or Washington D.C. or Port-au-Prince or Moscow or Auschwitz to find tragedy. It happens right here, in your own life today. But God’s work of caring for you, His children, will never fail.
Perhaps more than anything else, remembering a tragedy such as this reminds us that our time here on earth is short, and that what we truly look forward to is a life with God forever, where He will try every tear, and all of our hurts and fears will go away forever. Eternal Lord, Your wisdom sees
And fathoms all life’s tragedies; You know our grief, You hear our sighs– In mercy, dry our tear-stained eyes. From evil times, You bring great good; Beneath Your cross, we’ve safely stood. Though dimly now life’s path we trace, One day we shall see face to face.
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.