September 16, 2001
Out of Ashes Again
illions of words have been spoken since Tuesday morning's terroristic strike against the heart of America as we have been glued to our televisions. As I asked myself, "What Can I Say?" I thought of the eighth chapter of Romans where Paul asks a similar question, "What then are we to say about these things?" (v 31) Indeed, many Americans have opened their Bibles this week in search of answers. Let's look at what Paul has to say about how we can live, and die, in fellowship with our loving Abba Father.
There is hope even amid this most tragic situation. We are familiar with the words of the eighth chapter of Romans because they make up a major portion of our Funeral Ritual. In the face of death we regularly read, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us." In other words, when we are walking with God, we can have an inward "assurance" of His love to the point that we are able to call Him by the family name of "Abba Father." As children in the family, nothing can ever happen to us that can separate us from God's love. (35-39) Not even a terrible death, such as many thousands suffered this past week.
However, a sad fact has been underlined this week that not everyone has chosen to be one of the children of light. Some have obviously chosen darkness, or have been so warped by their environment that they can't see the light. I asked a friend this week, who is a licensed counselor, how a person can reach such a barbaric level that they could murder innocent airline passengers, and then commit suicide. The answer, "They have been brainwashed since childhood and can not think logically and their extreme hatred is irrational." This is one reason the nations came together to destroy Hitler, and the other Nazis, in WW II. A collective decision was made that a just war was necessary to eradicate an evil force that could not be reason with. The events of Tuesday have convinced the rational world that the long-standing evil of organized terrorism must be stopped to save thousands of innocent lives.
As is often the case, we again come to tasks with another extremist aberration of religion. We need to remind ourselves that most Moslems are not extremists and that these radical terrorists are really a dangerous deviation. It is time for moderate Moslems to rise up and help the rest of us in an effort to control these whose stated goal is to destroy free society. We are not seeking recrimination, but justice in a world that respects natural law that does not accept terrorism, murder and suicide.
This unifying goal has brought about the surprising comradeship among people of all cultures on a worldwide basis. Americans seem especially united against terrorism. It has been amazing how the Democrats and Republicans have come together in our Congress. Many Moslem governments have agreed to assist in this joint effort to stop the two decade reign of terrorism. The hideous acts of this past Tuesday have brought a wake up call for nations of good will to act soon, and to act together.
I have been amazed how the other games that we have been playing have become secondary. Major League Baseball players have not wanted to play this week. National Football League players have said that their minds and hearts were not in the game this weekend. Yet, soon we will be back at play and back to business. Wall Street trading is set to resume tomorrow and the New York Yankees will be back in their Pennant race.
Yet, right now are still suffering through a national time of bereavement. Thousands have died needlessly. I have read all of the biographies, and looked at all of the photos that have been released and they were a wonderful, irreplaceable, group of people who died. You may have recognized some of them from your past. Perhaps some of you have lost loved ones. We are all suffering from a post traumatic stress malaise. These were not Hollywood special effects that we have been watching on television this week. Our hearts will ache for weeks, perhaps months. Bereaved families will never fully overcome their shock and terrible grief. However, in time, through the healing of God's mercy, we all can recover. Still, we will need to continue to pray for the immediate families for a long, long time.
It has helped us to remember that this very ground that we worship on today was once covered in ashes. Atlanta was burned to the ground during the waning days of the Civil War. We have all seen photographs of our city covered with thick ashes. Although Sherman's army did not burn the churches, they burned everything else and our church building was irreparable. But, our church membership experienced Resurgence and led Atlanta in "Arising Out of Ashes" to become the leading city of the South. Henry Grady, one of our church members was the post Civil War Editor of "The Atlanta Journal" and in his editorials led the South to move beyond the terrible defeat, destruction and desolation of the burning. Grady is called, "The Architect of the New South," and is credited with inspiring the spirit of Resurgence in our people and our economy. We have a stained glass window in our fourth Sanctuary (1903) placed here by his family and friends. In like manner, "Ground Zero" on lower Manhattan, and our Pentagon, will "Arise Out of the Ashes."
The Good News is that we can experience New Life out of the ashes of this experience if we will look for the good that God will bring out of these bad days. The good will not cancel out the bad but we will be able to move forward with renewed hope that God's light will defeat the powers of darkness that have again failed to destroy us!
We had over one-thousand
at our Friday Observance of the National Day of Prayer. We expect America's
churches will be crowded today. Folks are filling the malls again. Baseball
resumes tomorrow. Soon the buildings will be rebuilt better than before.
Eventually we will somehow deal with the awful threat of organized terrorism.
There may be some dark days but even this too will pass and God will
continue to reign forever, and ever!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor