Sermon for Sunday September 11th 2011
This manuscript was turned into an outline that I preached from. In other words this is not an identical transcript on what was proclaimed on this Sunday at the two services at St. John Lutheran in Cardington, OH .
The readings for this Sunday call us to think about forgiveness. That may be the last thing some of us want to think about as this day marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Personally this day brings back some pretty intense memories and feelings. The smoke could be seen from my college campus for weeks, on that day, the site of the attacks was named ground zero and where I was in Queens, NY it was like a war zone.
Disbelief, anxiety and fear was felt throughout our campus community. Students were waiting to hear from relatives who worked in the buildings or served as first responders. I attended prayer services, worship services in weeks and months that followed, and they were very draining.
Friends of mine lost family and friends in those towers.
I remember the anxiety and fear quickly turned into anger. Forgiveness was far from my heart.
Fear, anxiety and uncertainty about what could happen next gave me a heart of stone that caused me to feel the need for revenge, violence and war in order to feel safe.
I remember soon after the attacks buying a poster to hang on my dorm room window for people in the quad could see. It was of the American flag and it said “these colors don’t run.”
I remember telling my spiritual director about it in college. And he asked me, “Adam, what does that mean?” He challenged me on this vengeful spirit, and I realized that my heart was not set on Christ, but because I was afraid my heart was set on violence.
I am not saying that I am against war or that there is never a just war or a proportional response. I am not even saying that I am a pacifist.
What I am saying is that I realized that those who committed those heinous acts on September 11th 2001 had brought me down to their level. I realized just how dangerous my brokenness is when it comes to wanting revenge and confusing it with justice.
The reason that I continually seek to be converted and freed to the road of forgiveness is because I know just how heinous I could be if I let terrorist or criminals win. I know if punishments were up to me my gut instincts is to make “water boarding” sound like something you do on vacation.
Which is why I need to be forgiven and freed from my reactions to acts of terrorism.
Violence begets violence, and I am not saying there is no such thing as a just war, but on the other hand, if war could truly bring peace to this world it would have been achieved a long time ago.
Soon after 9/11 we heard and still hear that we live in a “post 9/11” world. As Christians, we must reject this statement!
You and I don’t live in a post 9/11 world! Saying that we live in a post 9/11 world means that we allow the marks of terror, death and destruction to permanently change and transform us and the world.
The marks of 9/11 do not have the final say! Because we don’t live in a post 9/11 world, we live in a post resurrection world!
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only event in human history that leaves a lasting mark on all time and creation!
Love, Grace, and Forgiveness has the last word!
If you watch TV today, and I am sure you have heard reflections already on how we will never be the same. Sure, these events and tragedies in our own lies have impacts on us but, they are not everlasting marks.
Through the cross, we have been released and forgiven from out debts! Not even death will have its final sting because of what Jesus has done for us.
We are then called to be a people freed in a world that keeps us hostage to the threats of the unknown, prisoners of fear.
You and I, are called to live as free people, filled with hope and God’ abundant love for this broken world.
God calling us to forgive is not just for our own good, God calling us to forgive is like giving us the key to our handcuffs, so we can free ourselves from our own hearts, and allow God to create in us a clean heart.
In a post resurrection world, we let all people know that our God is with us and is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
In a post resurrection world, we know that our God has not dealt with us according to our sins nor repaid us according to our iniquities.
And we are called to love as God loves.If God forgave as we forgive, wouldn’t we be in trouble? Yet that is what we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a petition for conversion because if God in the end does forgive as we forgive than we are in some trouble.
This is exactly what the gospel text is calling us to do this morning, free others from the debts, sins and trespasses against you as God has freed you!
Peter’s question to Jesus, “how often should I forgive?” comes from a heart that is sinful, broken and violent. A heart that you and I both have. A heart that wants to have limitations on forgiveness.
The slave who is forgiven and freed from his debts is released and called to live a free life but does not live a life of freedom. The slave violently oppresses his fellow slave.
Jesus warns us that our nature is not to live a freed life even when we receive and experience God’s forgiveness.
The so called post 9/11 world that we live in seeks to push our buttons, causing us to live out of fear and anxiety. We are not just afraid of terrorism in our world today, but a shaky economy, limitations in our health care system, cause us to be anxious in uncertain times.
The climate in our society isn’t just to disagree with one another but to demonize each other.
The broken world that we live in will always cause uncertainty, and fear. Which is why, the Good News is that, in Christ we are forgiven and freed from the terror in our dark and broken world.
Marked and claimed by the cross and not by any act of fear or terror, we are called not to oppress or demonize but to release others from the burden, anxiety and fear that they are being tormented with.
Living in a post resurrection world, as Christians we are as Stephen Bouman, former bishop of Metro NY synod says an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.
You and I need to set our hearts on the freedom we have in Jesus Christ and to share the joy of what it means to be released from our debts.
As an Easter people living in a Good Friday world, we pray for leaders of all nations.
We pray that they seek to serve the common good and that they may lead with God’s mercy, grace and peace burning in their hearts.
In our own country, our elected officials serve an important and need role in our society. However, we need to be cautious when they can promise us things that only God can give. Even though they don’t say it, when they campaign and lead, it can easily seem like they are the messiah or superhero to our problems, here to save the day.
Whether it is a proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” from one President, or the promise of “Hope and Change” from another, don’t buy into the fact they our leaders can full erase and free you from fear and anxiety that you and I experience in our broken world.
Sisters and brothers you and I are and Easter people living in a Good Friday world pointing to the love of God on the Cross and the hope of new life and resurrection it gives to humanity and all creation.
We didn’t need a new memorial or bigger and better buildings to find hope after the 9/11 terror attacks. Because we know that God is with us always, even to the end of the age.
God was with the victims on that day he was in the stairwells and smoke filled buildings. He was on the planes and in a burning Pentagon.
I don’t believe that things happen for a reason but, I do believe in a God who is with us will NOT allow terror, death and destruction to have the final mark and say in our lives and in our world.
The victims of these attacks, you and I are not defined by this event but by the event that took place on Calvary when Jesus gave his life for us by way of the Cross.
As an Easter people, we know that in death there is new life.
In our first reading, Joseph’s brothers intended harm and death upon Joseph. Joseph said, “Even though you intended to do harm to me. God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.”
God does not will or rejoice in death and destruction, especially when it is caused by our own hands. But God, who is a God of life, will bring new life in the midst death.
Out of the rubble of ground zero we have hope in new life, from the Cross we have hope in an empty tomb which open the doors to everlasting life.
God is with us, and God’s word and God’s will have the final say. Marked and claimed by the cross, baptized and freed from terror we sing alleluia in the face of death, destruction, fear and uncertainty.
Even though we are like Peter, and want to have limitations on forgiveness our God does not. Our God does not deal with us according to our sins nor repaid us according to our iniquities!
We are forgiven and freed! As Paul says, “whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
We know how the story is going to end. We are free from the burdens of uncertainty and fear.
The work of Christ on the cross has the last word, and gives to us a new kingdom. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and on that last day, we know that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall give praise to God!
Forgiveness has the last word through the Love of Christ on the Cross…..Mission Accomplished! Amen.