Wings As Eagles
his has been a tough week with war looming on the horizon and our young soldiers deployed to the boarders of Iraq. Whether we are for or against the war we all feel a sense of foreboding. In addition to our war worries abroad, just yesterday our national terrorism alert was raised to orange; which means that we should be prepared for terroristic attacks in the eastern part of the United States, especially in cities where major public events, attracting thousands of people, are being held. As we worship, just outside our stained glass windows there are thousands of basketball fans visiting the "Capitol of the South" for the annual N.B.A. All-Star Game.
Atlanta is the only major city in America which has previously been destroyed and burned to the ground by war. Perhaps we all need to re-read Gone With the Wind. It was written by our neighbor, Margaret Mitchell. Indeed, our church was the only church mentioned in her all time best seller. Still today, if you want to recapture what devastation, hopelessness and a return to a pre-civilized existence feels and smells like, the best place is in the last couple of chapters which were typed out just a couple of miles up Peachtree Street. Sometimes war is inevitable, but it comes at a gigantic price.
Sometimes we Americans use the expression, "All you have is a prayer's chance!" It means that you have very little hope of survival. But really now, a sincere prayer invokes the greatest power in the universe. I am grateful for the comfort that talking to God has brought our troubled world during this troubled week.
All week long we have had our faith buoyed by the series of worship services in memory of our seven Columbia Space Shuttle astronauts. Some have taken it as a kind of omen, or an experience to make us re-think our priorities, during these unnerving times. The television video of the breaking up of the Columbia has reminded us that human engineered technology sometimes fails us. We have not prayed for NASA and the loss of machinery; rather, we have grieved with the families of the human beings who were lost.
I don't know if he writes his own speeches, or relies on speechwriters, but President George Bush delivered several sterling sermons these last two weeks. I feel that his references to Scripture and to familiar hymns were appropriate and that we all needed this reassurance during a time of teetering on the likelihood of war. I feel that our government has backed off of their resolve to begin the war without international support. There seems to be a tempered approach toward making an effort to bring our allies on board before striking out on our own. It is my feeling that this less bullish attitude has come about by the recent events that have touched our souls so deeply.
After President Bush appeared before cameras eight days ago and said, "The Columbia is lost and there are no survivors," he then went on to quote Isaiah 41:26, from the New International Version, which happens to be our Old Testament Lectionary reading for this fifth Sunday after Epiphany: "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
President Bush related this text to the tragedy by commenting that, If God could create and name the stars then He could also personally know each of these Astronauts; and therefore, they are not missing. Our President must have also read verse 22 which says, "He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing." (NIV) Perhaps the most powerful person in the world was put in his place by these words of Scripture. If so, he will become an even greater leader than before.
Later in our text we read the words that led our forefathers to select "The American Eagle" as the symbol of our nation, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." (v.31, NIV)
Earlier in the week, our United Methodist President, in his State of the Union Address, spoke of how community faith groups and agencies were powerfully changing lives of poor and addicted citizens through their "Wonder Working Power." Most of us immediately recognized that he was quoting the refrain of our familiar gospel hymn, "There is power, power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb."
The Good News today is that we have many reasons to continue to hope for peace and security in Christ, even if the material and economic world continues to alarm us. Our sure and certain trust is in the God who flung the stars into place and gave them each an identity. He also knows our individual souls and He hears our prayers.
John Glenn, looking out the window of the Space Shuttle a few years ago made the observation, "How can anyone look at the beauty of this earth and not trust in God?" It is also true that persons who have only looked out the windows of their homes or trains and automobiles have by the vast majority come to trust in God. Does it not stand to reason that if God has revealed Himself so wondrously in His Creation, and in His Written Word, that He would also make an effort to reach human kind on a more personal level. And we know, as does our President, that this way is Jesus.
The Commander of Columbia was Colonel Rick Husband who was reared in Amarillo First Methodist Church where the older members remembered how as a child he waved to them during children's choir performances. In his last conversation with his Pastor, just before that fateful liftoff, he said, "Keep telling them about Jesus for He's done so much for me!" God has not failed him even in death, and He will never fail us!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor