Hope in the Wake of Tragedy

It was late one Tuesday evening, before a mother could sit down, to tell her only child about the terror that hit downtown. She looked into the eyes of her son. Gosh, she loved him so. She felt her heart begin to break and the hurt began to show.

She gathered all her strength and courage, as her story she began to tell. "Son don't cry, but I'm afraid daddy might be under a building that fell." The boy looked back at his mother, his eyes made not one blink. And the mother's tears began to fall. What would her young son think?

You see his dad is a firefighter, and his hero from the day of his birth. He loved his dad more than anything else that could ever inherit this earth.

The mother's head began to drop, her forehead resting on her palm. She thought her son would be upset. Instead, he was very calm. The boy leaned over towards his Mom, and put his hand upon her head. In her ear he began to whisper, and this is what he said:

"Mommy please don't cry, I knew daddy wasn't coming home. I talked to him just a while ago, but it wasn't on the phone. He told me that he loved me, and he promised we'd meet again. He told me of his new home, and the job he was to begin."

"God is building an army, and there are many saints needed. That is where daddy and the others went. They weren't all defeated." It was then the mother lifted her head, the tears streamed down her face. And she could feel her husband's presence, as it filled her heart with grace. It was then she knew her son was right. He was in God's great army now. She also knew her son was safe, that he'd be kept from harm somehow.

So, evildoers of the world beware. An army is on the way. Bolstered by new saints, who left the twisted wreckage that day. Their commander has never been beaten. His power has never been matched. And if evil thinks He was almighty before... Well, the surface has just been scratched!

The fires have long been snuffed out, the twisted metal has been removed, and buildings have been repaired, but the pain and hurt of that tragic day one year ago still lingers and haunts us.

Some events in human history impact us so greatly that we will forever remember the circumstance surrounding where we were when we heard the news. And September 11, 2001 is one of those days, a day when we were shaken at the very core of our being.

I will never forget walking out of my study over to the family room that morning, only to see on the TV smoke billowing up from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and moments later seeing the second plane crash into the South Tower. Then the reports of the plane crashing into the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania began to come across the TV. These images are forever embedded in my memory. You no doubt remember exactly where you were, and what you were doing when you first heard the news of the brutal attack on our country.

This day last year we witnessed first hand the worse of humanity, and we also witnessed the best. And today we gather as God's children to remember the pain, the sorrow, the anger, and yes the miracles and expressions of God's grace and love.

Through the miracle of television, we became eyewitnesses to horrifying acts of terrorism and hate aimed at the very heart of America. But yet, despite these terrible acts of hate and evil, they failed. Make no mistake we are wounded. We are wounded by terror and wounded by fear, but our spirit of freedom and faith still burns on, brighter then ever.

And the candles, which sit upon the altar tonight and throughout this sanctuary, symbolize in a very real way not only the lives that were lost but also the spirit of faith and hope, which continues to burn bright.

We are a people of privilege to varying degrees, compared to most of the rest of the world. And to be very honest about it, we don't really know what it means to depend on God's grace.

Well I believe the events of last year served as a wake-up call for all of us, reminding us just how vulnerable to hate and evil we really are, and how dependent we truly are on God. Honestly, this is a wonderful revelation. Clearly God has been at work this past year as lives have been transformed and people have grown closer to Christ. Studies report that many teenagers feel closer to their families now, more then ever before. And I believe folks are now more focused on quality of life, rather than quantity of life.

For many, life has taken on new meaning and has become more precious. Folks are beginning to realize in a very tangible way that we really don't know what our tomorrow holds, so we must live for today, trusting God will take care of our tomorrows.

One year ago many people didn't know how to respond or to whom to turn to for guidance in the face of so much evil, so many turned back to their spiritual roots, they turned to God in unprecedented numbers for comfort, support, strength, and hope.

Even the media started using words like prayer, blessing, hope, and God. Words I can never remember hearing them use in such a way before. And that's because in times like these there is only one place to turn, and that's to God.

In this month's edition of Guideposts there's an article, which speaks, in a very real way, to hope. Hope in the cross.

A construction worker, as he was digging through the twisted debris of the World Trade Center Towers looking for victims came upon a cross, which was all that was left of some twisted I-beams.

Now to some people it was nothing but steel, but to this man, and to many others, it was a reminder of Christ's presence among them. Whenever he was tired and about to give up he'd go to the foot of the cross, he knelt before it and felt the Holy Spirit renew his strength.

Certainly ground zero, the Pentagon, and the forest of Pennsylvania were not places of hope, but that 20-ton cross served as a reminder that there is hope for the future, a glorious future.

And when seeking hope, encouragement, or optimism, there is no better place to look then to God's Word and his promise to us through the blood of Christ, of a better place. Our hope for the future is in Jesus Christ as revealed to us through the one true book, the Holy Bible.

The Bible tells us that in the future evil will no longer continue as it does now. The time will come when God will put an end to evil in it's many forms, and his faithful followers will share in his glorious reign. And this promise is made to all of us.

But until that time the Apostle Paul tells us we must overcome. This means that throughout our lives we will experience difficulties and tragedies, much like last year, but these events will serve to help us grow.

And we should rejoice in suffering not because we like pain, or deny its presence, but because we know God is using life's difficulties and Satan's attacks to build our character, to make us more Christ-like.

The problems that we run into throughout our lives will develop our perseverance, which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence and hope about the future. Many have turned to God because they now realize that true hope, eternal hope, comes only through him.

As the Apostle Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians, faith, hope, and love are at the very heart of the Christian life. Our relationship with God begins with faith, which helps us realize that we are delivered from our past by Christ's death. Hope grows as we learn all the things God has in mind for us, and as we meet the test of adversity head on. And as hope grows we begin to realize, in a more profound way, God's promise of the future.

Today in our culture the word "hope" has become a weak word meaning, "hoping against hope," or "hoping for the best," which actually implies we are not hopeful at all. But this is not what "hope" means in the Bible. In the Bible hope means certainty, and the only reason it's called hope rather than certainty is that we don't possess what is hoped for yet, although we will.

So even though we are not yet in full possession of what is hoped for, we are nevertheless certain of it, since it has been won for us by Christ and has been promised to us by God "who does not lie."

Too many people focus on gloom and doom, but that's not scriptural. God has a plan for this world and the Bible says Christ will return and reign from sea to shining sea, and we will experience eternal life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but will have eternal life." Yes, we have all been wounded deeply wounded by last year's horrific events. But we have not been defeated, and we will not be defeated by evil.

But we need to be a people not motivated by revenge or hate, but rather a people motivated by love and compassion. We need to be a nation, which unconditionally gives hope to all people. And we need to live for Christ by showing others the hope that comes from knowing the risen Lord.

One year ago today as the soot and ash rained down, we became one color. As we carried each other down the stairs of the burning building, we became one class. As we lit candles of peace and hope, we became one generation. As the firefighters and police officers fought their way into the inferno, we became one gender. As we fell to our knees in prayer for strength, we became one faith. As we shouted words of encouragement, we spoke one language.

As we stood in line to give our blood, we became one body. As we mourned together the great loss, we became one family. As we cried tears of grief and loss, we became one soul.

As we comforted and loved one another, we became one people. And as we came face-to-face with evil, God gave us a glimpse of heaven.

As a united people let us continue to turn to God for the healing of broken lives, and for His restoration of our society to one in which His love replaces incivility, hatred, and violence.

Let us move from fear to hope, and move from being crisis-centered to Christ-centered remembering the great news that Jesus Christ is God's own son, that he has borne all of our sins, grief and sorrows in his death for us on the cross, and that we can know our hope for today, tomorrow, and forever is in our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Just as an anchor holds a ship firmly to the seabed, God through the living Christ is our anchor, which holds us secure in faith, and is our hope in the wake of tragedy.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade