Do you remember where you were nineteen years ago today? Do you remember what you were doing when the world came to a crashing halt? How many hours did we spent in front of the news, numb to think that someone would attack us on our own ground? This day is one of those seminal moments in our lives we will never forget. My store on Buckeye Road was in the flight path to Sky Harbor International Airport. It was always noisy because of all the air traffic. We stood outside that morning and watched as the last few planes made their approach to land…and then it was quiet. Many of our customers made their way to the store, not so much to shop but because the store was the neighborhood gathering place. We brought our training T.V. down from the office and bolted it down so people could watch. We made a huge pot of coffee and set out cookies. People wandered aimlessly, not knowing what to do or what would happen next. And even though the store was full of people, it was eerily quiet.
I would guess many of us do not even have to close our eyes to see the towers burning, the Pentagon smoldering and the huge hole in the ground left after flight 93 crashed just outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We have seen the pictures of people running away from the terror and those who have pledged to keep us safe, running towards it. We have seen pictures of firefighters who worked for days on end, covered in dirt and grime. There was the twisted metal of the twin towers and the flag that was hung from the remains of one of the towers. President Bush spoke to the nation. He threw out the first pitch for game three of the World Series, the games played to lend some sort of a sense of normalcy in a world that was anything but normal. People spoke of little else for days, probably because no one could fathom what had happened.
Somehow it seems fitting that today, our sky is filled with smoke, and once again there is a sort of melancholy feeling as we look west to our brothers and sisters on the coast who are amid a terror of their own. September 11, 2001 changed everything. It changed how we travel and how we look at people of different nationalities. It has raised our fears, division and hate. This horrific act of terror was committed by those who worship a god they believe hates everyone who does not worship him. But how blessed we are to worship the One True God who is nothing but Love.
Love is one of those words we use a lot. We love chocolate. We love a television show or podcast. We love a particular sports team or a brand of clothes. We love a restaurant or movie, coffee or vehicle. Every one of us has people in our lives we love, hopefully not in the same way we love chocolate or lutefisk. But when you look at this list there is not one thing that will last forever. Food gets eaten, clothes and vehicles wear out, break or get stolen. People die. And sometimes people disappoint us or hurt us. But God’s love is totally different. His love never ends. God has loved us from the beginning and will, on into eternity. From the first human, lovingly made from the dust of the earth to the last…God loves.
God loves so much that He sent His only Son into this world so that we might get a glimpse of that great love. And God’s Son loves enough that He was willing to take our sins upon Himself, paying the price for them so we can spend all of eternity with Him. Our God is the only deity who goes after His people when they stray, just like the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one who is lost. We read these words in 2 Chronicles 6:14, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart.” This comes from the Old Testament, the part of the Bible many of us think contains only an angry God. The apostle Paul says this: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We can talk about God’s love all day. But there came a point in time when God chose to show us His love. We see that love hanging on the cross of Golgotha.
There are these words from the Book of Romans 8:38-39. I have used them many times before, but this is a promise that we cannot let out of our sight. It matters not what happens in the world, these words will always ring true. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No one can take away from us the love we have in Jesus Christ. NO ONE.
And one final reminder, this from 1 John 4:7-8. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is the root of many of our problems. People do not know God, or His love. The men who flew the planes into the twin towers, the pentagon and the ground…did not know the one true God. We have hate and division and unrest in our country today because we have invited God out of our schools, places of employment and nearly everyplace else. If this world were to know and love God, it would be a far different place. There are still many who do not know. Who will you tell?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W