Saturday, 10 September 2011
This weekend, as I'm sure you know, marks the tenth anniversary of the attack on our nation that occurred on September 11, 2001. At our church, we're hosting a service recognizing the first responders in our community -- fire fighters, police officers, and EMT's. We want to remember not only the sacrifices made on 9/11 but the kinds of sacrifices they make every day.
I've been trying to focus on positive ways to remember 9/11. Thus far, I've managed to avoid most news stories surrounding this tenth anniversary weekend of remembrance. Sometimes personal opinions about such a historic event are so rhetorically charged I can't stand to hear or read them. Even casual news stories can be ridiculous -- like the news that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't have room at the Ground Zero memorial service for the firefighters and other first responders that were there the day it happened.
Though we're ten years removed from this tragedy, there are still those who will wish to say this came upon our nation because "we deserved it." Some say we deserved it because our involvement in Middle East skirmishes provoked such an attack. Others say we deserved it because of some divine judgment upon us. Consider the following story from Luke chapter thirteen.
Jesus is speaking to a crowd of thousands, so packed together that they were trampling over each other to hear him teach. A few that were there told Jesus about some Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were worshiping in the temple. He then mixed their blood with the sacrifices they had been making.
Jesus said of this news, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
There are those who think that tragedy strikes only people harboring unrepentant sin. In the case of these Galileans, they were actually repenting of their sins and still they faced death in the very temple where they were worshiping God. Jesus says in Matthew 5:45 that the sun rises on the evil and the good, and rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
Whether it's a war or disease or a natural disaster, there's no shortage of people who are ready to say that this is happening because it is God's judgment upon the group of people such tragedy affects. In some way, they're right -- bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. But that's probably not what these doom-sayers are insinuating.
A most recent example is Hurricane Irene which swept up the east coast with Washington D.C. and New York City in its path. "Oh, God is judging our nation's capital for the sins of our leaders!" you may have heard it said. Or perhaps you secretly wanted a devastating storm to pound our politicians a little bit for the stupid decisions they've been making (but I digress).
Jesus says that the sins of the people affected by tragedy are no greater (or less) than the sins of anyone else. If you don't repent of your sins, you too will perish -- and of a fate worse than any hurricane or airplane attack. For all have sinned and fallen short of God (Romans 3:23). Fortunately, God gave us a way back to him by trusting in his Son (John 3:16). God is patient and desires that none should perish but that all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
But this next part is where the story really connects with what we are remembering this weekend. Jesus says: "Those who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them -- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
We all have a responsibility to our own sin -- not to go pointing out the sins of everyone suffering under some great tragedy. The point in remembering 9/11 is that we all suffered some great tragedy. We all stand together in remembering those who died and the heroes that gave their lives. We stand together to build back stronger than we were before.
Jesus adds to his lesson the following parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'"
"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears friut next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"
Let's put ourselves in that proverbial "one more year" category -- everyone, sinners and all. It's time we bear fruit, or we too will perish. Either we all stand together, or together we all will fall.
(A 9/11 tribute video coming to my website on Sunday. Visit www.gabehughes.com.)
Psalm 20:7-8 "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm."
Do you think 9/11 happened because God wanted to punish us? Why did 9/11 happen?