“We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that He is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”
No matter how hard we try, words cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tues morning…
But today we come together in this service to confess our need of God. We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation. But today we need Him especially. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God.
The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have.
We’ve seen so much that brings tears to our eyes and makes us feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.
What are the lessons we can learn?
First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I do not know the answer. I have to accept , by faith, that God is sovereign, and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.
The Bible says God is not the Author of evil. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 the Bible talks about the mystery of iniquity. the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”
The lesson of this even is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but second, it’s about our need for each other.
What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days! None of us will forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, or the hundreds of people standing patiently in line to donate blood…
Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope-hope for the present and hope for the future.
Yes, there is hope. There is hope for the present because the stage, I believe, has already been set for a new spirit in our nation.
We desperately need a spiritual renewal in this country, and God has told us in His Word, time and time that we need to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way.
There also is hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. That is the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.
This event reminds us of the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if those people who got on those planes or who walked into the world Trace Center or the Pentagon on Tuesday thought that it would be the last day of their lives. And that’s why we each must face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will.
Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us the symbol of the cross. For the Christian, the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for He took them upon Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, “I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.”
The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ conquered evil and death and hell. Yes, there is hope.
I’ve become an old man now, and I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago.
Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young closed his talk with a quotation from the old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”
This week we watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass and the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of prosperity and creativity. When damaged, those building plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet, underneath the debris, is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”
Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation; or to choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild a solid foundation.
And I believe that we are starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. And in that faith, we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we have experienced this week. This has been a terrible week with many tears.
But it also has been a week of great faith. In that hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” the words say, “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and that as we trust in Him we will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us.
We know also that God will give wisdom and courage and strength to the President and those around him. And this will be a day that we will remember as a day of Victory.
May God bless you all.”
(2 Cor. 1:3-4, Ps. 46: 1-2, Jeremiah 17:9)
The Hymn: How Firm a Foundation (From A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, by John Rippon, 1787; attributed variously to John Keene, Kirkham, and John Keith.)
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
May 2016 be a year where the Foundation is laid, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day in our hearts and our minds as we draw ever nearer the LORD! Praying for us all, that God helps us keep focused-because the King is Come in our hearts and our lives, and we need to ‘preach the gospel’ in every land that we might all be ready – the Bride, for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! Revelation 19:6-9:
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
May God richly bless you with His powerful Spirit to help you walk step by step in His presence and joy. In His love I pray for my children, my family, my friends, and all the people this year that God lets me meet, toni