[I am sitting here in my living room, waiting for President Obama to speak and formally announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed. Like the rest of the country, this whole thing is a flashback to that horrible day nine and a half years ago. Here is the sermon from the prayer service we had at Messiah ten and a half years ago. -Peperkorn]
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
September 11, 2001 (week of Trinity 13)
Vespers with the Litany, 8:30 p.m.
On the occasion of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
TITLE: “With the Lord there is Mercy”
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for tonight is from Psalm 130, O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption, and also from the Lord’s Prayer, but deliver us from evil.
There are sometimes events in this world that shock us to the core, and serve to remind us of the power of sin and evil that is so hard for us to understand. This is just such a day. We’ll probably never know all of the events that led up to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As I’ve watched the news today, what keeps running through my head is the shock of this actually happening in the United States. How can this be? Why? What did we do as a nation and a people to deserve such wrath? How is it that we have received the brunt of what President George Bush has called “the worst of human nature”?
The answer, of course, lies in the Scriptures themselves. We can’t ultimately point to a particular event or person or thing to place the blame. It would be useful if we could, because then we would all be off the hook. But as St. Paul says in Romans chapter six, The wages of sin is death. That is the way of the world. It may come one at a time, or it may come in the form of a violent disaster or attack like we have seen today. But that is how things work in the world. Because of sin, your sin and mine, death is what awaits all of us. The Scriptures are full of such examples. The flood; the tower of Babel; Sodom and Gomorrah; Jonah and Nineveh; and even Jerusalem itself was destroyed because of unbelief.
And as a nation we have played no small part in dolling out death ourselves. Whether it be in stem cell research, the rising fascination with euthanasia, or the most gruesome death of all, abortion, we as a country claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we murder our own children for the sake of convenience or money or whatever excuse we may put up for taking the easy way. We have not defended the helpless. We have killed them. So it should not surprise us when violent death strikes at our own doorstep.
Now don’t misunderstand me. This does not excuse the murderous attacks of the terrorists who have invaded our shores. They have received their own reward for their evil deeds. But it is at just such a time that we cry out with the church of all ages: deliver us from evil.
If we truly want to place the blame for this attack where it belongs, it is on the shoulders of the devil himself. He prowls around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. There is nothing the devil would love more than to see Christians fall into shame and despair over this calamity. He seeks to murder and destroy wherever he can, and it is the destruction of your faith that is his final goal. This is why we pray deliver us from the evil one.
Thank God that He does what He promises. He does deliver us from evil. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus Christ paid the penalty and wage for your death. He died, so that you might live. In the midst of death and calamity, the work of Jesus Christ for you is the only thing that can give hope. Everywhere else you look will finally lead to despair. He is the one who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. Why? Because he’s been there. Jesus Christ has been to death and back again. With Him there is a hope and a future. As we heard in the Psalm, if you O Lord kept a record of sins, or Lord who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you; therefore you may be feared (Ps. 130).
God’s forgiveness extends to all. Many of us here tonight face feelings of hurt and anger over what has been done to us. But remember that the love of God in Christ Jesus extends to all. This is why we gather here tonight. We gather to hear God’s Word and to pray. We gather to pray for the wounded and the families of the dead. We come to pray for our leaders. But perhaps most importantly, we come to pray for our enemies. Yes, we pray for those who hate us, and bless those who persecute us. Why? Because of Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has paid the ultimate penalty for sin in His own sacrificial death. It is there that we put our trust, and we leave all things to God’s direction.
So put your trust in the Lord, not in governments or the things of this earth. They, as we have so clearly seen today, will always fail in the end. They can’t protect us. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the one who can give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the bereaved, and healing to the wounded soul. Do not be afraid. God is still in control. Perhaps the words of Psalm 46 express our hope the best:
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
So come and pray to the Lord for mercy, for He will give it to you. In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.