Sermon on 911

For a video of this sermon and the anthem (The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”) click here.

“Looking Over Your Shoulder”  Psalm 91  9/11/16 LMPC by Dr. Ben Sloan

This is the first time in a while that 911 is on a Sunday, so I wanted to have us think about how God is at work in us today.  For fifteen years, since 911 we have been asked to be “vigilant.”  It is hard to try to live a normal life and yet keep looking over your shoulder.   There was a time when we had peace in our land.  From 2002 t0 2011 Homeland Security gave us a color-coded threat level based on the Forest Service. It had five levels-green (low risk), blue (general risk), yellow (elevated), orange (high), red (severe).  For nine years the threat level never went below yellow- blue and green were never used- so they just stopped it in 2011 and told us to be vigilant.  This means that any person under 18 cannot remember a time when they were not in a threat zone.  We do not need to wring our hands about this, or wistfully long for the past.  The people of the Bible were always under a threat.  They had no radar, no early warning system.  Marauding armies often came up from Egypt or down from the fertile crescent or across from neighboring enemies.  Yet in the midst of the terror they found a source of great peace.  That is what I want us to focus on today.  Jesus said it like this, “Peace I leave with you- my peace I give to you- not as the world gives give I to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
The world will tell you to live in fear.  It will tell you to fear the Zika virus.  It will tell you to fear bird flu, mad cow disease, brain eating amoebas, and the Ebola Virus.  The number of people killed by terrorists is not shrinking but growing (from 6,000 in 2001 to 32,000 in 2014).  The president actually said you are more likely to get hit by mundane things than get killed by a terrorist. You are 17,000 times more likely to die of a heart disease than by terror attack. You are 12,000 times more likely to die of cancer than a terror attack as an American.  Yet, I do not find the president’s words reassuring.  Wouldn’t it be great if someone said, “Do this- and you will never die.”   Then you wouldn’t have to fear anything.
Jesus said these words- that are inscribed on the granite of our columbarium: “I am the resurrection and the life- he who believes in me will never die.”  What he means is you will live forever.  Jesus knew that people die.  He died on the cross.  He said this after Lazarus died and he very publicly raised him.  Now Lazarus died.  Jesus raised him and Lazarus died again many years later.  It was not too long after Jesus raised Lazarus that Jesus went into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday being proclaimed as a king and they arrested and killed him.  Some were saying then- see- what good is it to trust in your God?  The criminals and soldiers were saying, “You saved others- save yourself.”  Matthew records that some were quoting Psalm 22:8 of Jesus- “He trusts in God.  Let God deliver him since he delights in him.”  The mockers and skeptics couldn’t see the Father delivering His Son.  All they saw was someone in pain and then dead on a cross.  But in God’s timing in way- even death was not the last word.  See, Jesus did not love the cross- but He did not fear the terror of people.  He did not try to hide or run away but preached openly.  He did not fear for the same reason we should not fear- the hope of the resurrection- the hope of eternal life.  They may take our bodies but they cannot take our soul.  Do not fear cancer or Alzheimer’s or stroke or car wrecks or terrorists or war.  Have courage because of Jesus Christ.
II. GOD IS ABLE TO PROTECT-  There are many examples in the Bible and in history of God protecting His people.  Abraham rescued Lot with a handful of men from an army.  God protected the People of Israel at Passover from the angel of death by the blood of the lamb;  God provided and protected the godly prophet Elijah during famine- and when Ahab was trying to kill him;  Jeremiah was protected at the fall of Jerusalem; When the people of Jerusalem were massacred in 70 AD, most Christians escaped because they remembered the words of Jesus to flee to the hills when armies surrounded Jerusalem;
But is it possible to believe God protects when so many died in the towers or at the Pentagon- many good people and many believers.       There are those who say God does not protect, but I want to tell you a few 911 stories I know of that let me know God still does.  We do not always understand it- and we do not deserve it, but to me it is clear God is able to protect and bless those He wants to protect and bless.
First there were supposed to be 50,000 people in the buildings but there were not.  It was the first day of school and many were taking their children in.  While too many, 2,700 died, this was not 50,000.  There are many individual stories that point to God’s help.
Christine lives in Lexington, she and he husband moved here after 911.  She worked at the World Trade Center.  She was pregnant and off work that day.  Bu everyone she worked with- her whole flood died on 911.  She went to 30 funerals without any bodies.  It was devastating, but if you ask her she will tell you that God watched over her.  Bill was an elder in my last church.  He moved to Georgetown four years before 911.  He was a New York City Fire Captain.  He had to retire early because of an illness.  He lost hundreds of friends and said he would have been killed with his unit if he didn’t retire early.  Shep Shepard, a nominee for elder here, was a colonel at the Pentagon on 911.  He had worked most of the night and went for a run that morning, not knowing what had happened at the World Trade Center.  He came back in time to watch a jet full of 36,000 gallons of fuel burst into the Pentagon.  Most of the marines Shep worked with were okay, but one friend had a promotion just a few weeks before and was moved to the area the jet hit.  Why are some preserved and some not?  I do not know. But if God leaves us here let us live our lives with purpose and integrity.
III. CONDITIONS FOR GOD’S PROTECTION- Make the Most High Your Dwelling.
vs 1- He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High-  When God has got you- He’s got you.  No one can take you out of the palm of His hand.  We may be like the daffodil- may blow the seeds away- but the plant is still in your hand.
God is called our protector in many ways.  He is our shield, our fortress, our refuge, our strength, our guardian, defender, our tower, our rock.  All of these things are meant to tell us that we should go to Him in time of trouble.  We are not In this by ourselves.
I have said that for fifteen years we are told to be vigilant.  That means look over your shoulder, don’t just keep your eyes down.  But for the Christian it is not just the terrorist who rarely if ever pops up over your shoulder- God is always there.   During World War 2 times were very hard.  But at the end when there was so much rebuilding to do and so many were discouraged after it was over Walt Disney published (11/12/1946) a song that said, “Mr. Bluebirds on my shoulder.  It’s the truth- it’s actual everything is satisfactual.”  We do not need to live in constant fear.  Not because some bluebird is on our shoulder, but because whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High rests in the shadow of the Almighty.  He is our refuge and our fortress, our God in whom we trust.”