I remember watching the movie, “We Are Marshall” that came out a few years back. Its a story of a college in West Virginia that lost almost its entire football team to a tragic plane crash. All those aboard the plane, including some parents, coaches, team members – all perished in the crash. The school was left reeling. It was finding it impossible to continue a football program in the midst of such tremendous loss. Yet with a new, energetic coach, some inventive policy changes, and a great deal of time, Marshall University literally rose out of the ashes. Their first year back, they only won 2 games. They held a loosing record for almost a decade, yet they rose out of the ashes to become a viable competitor.
I think of the years that have passed since 9/11/2001. I try to think back to the tone of life before this tragedy, and realize that whether or not any of us lost family or friends that day, we have all been affected by the attack that took the lives of so many. Similar to the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, where the 7 good years are literally swallowed up by the 7 years of famine so severe the good years are overshadowed by the hardship to follow. Perhaps we still feel a measure of fear and uncertainty about our safety and security.
I have hesitated to pull out the newspaper articles you see in the narthex because they just seemed too painful to view. Now with 15 years since that fateful day, we can perhaps look back and remember. I believe each of us has been changed forever after that event. Many of us were frozen in time to the point of remembering exactly what we were doing when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. [stories or mine] I was sitting at a conference in New Orleans when the word came to the instructor about the attack. We raced to the hotel restaurant/bar area where the televisions were glued to CNN. We watched the events unfold but still with a little distance as we were so far away. It wasn’t until the plane struck the Pentagon that I felt a debilitating fear. I felt the possibility that I could be directly affected as my husband at that time would travel on occasion to the Pentagon. Like everyone else I grabbed my cell phone only to realize the entire cell phone network went down. Among the utter chaos, I could not reach my life partner to see if he was alive or dead.
As the morning wore on, I finally made contact with Mark and eventually with my daughter Krystal who called me from the school payphone worried about her Dad. Schools let out and my kids were heading home. I was stuck in New Orleans and Mark was in lockdown – neither one of us could get to our kids. I can tell you I prayed like never before. I prayed for my family. I prayed for my country. I prayed for the workers and brave ones who were helping others escape. I spewed anger at God for allowing this to happen. I broke down when I finally spoke with my middle school aged son who asked me, “Mom, are we at war?” I am sure I was not the only one running the gamut of emotions as the hours ticked by.
Yet as we remember today, we also look to the hope that we have experienced these last 15 years. We see the numerous stories of those who were saved while the first tower that was struck stayed standing longer than the second one, allowing many to escape. We hear of those who rescued 500,000 people from the shores of Manhattan in the largest, most successful boat rescue in history. We honor those on Flight 93 who willingly gave their lives to ensure one of the four planned strikes was unsuccessful. We celebrate with the 2,000 children born on 9/11. We experience the joy of all the young people hear today born since that time. We have seen life continue, with good times and bad, laughter and heartache, joy and tears. Out of the ashes we rise.
So what? I hesitate to raise this question but what is the ‘so what’ for today? How does any of this relate to us today? Many folks turned to God following 9/11, in hopes of making some kind of sense of all that had happened. Others turned away from God, wondering how a loving God could allow such a tragedy to occur. If God was punishing us, then perhaps there was no sense worshipping God in the first place. Where are we on this spectrum? Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream to indicate that hard times were coming. God was not guaranteeing a life of ease, but God was guaranteeing we would never walk alone. God continues to provide reassurance that in this world we would experience trouble, hardship, sorrow, fear – but to take heart because God has already overcome the world. God sent God’s son to take on our trials and pain so that we can be assured of a companion to walk with us as we face the years of plenty and the years of famine.
The ’so what’ I hope to leave you with is a message of hope. No matter how difficult life becomes, God is our beacon of hope. God provides assurance to us that when tragedy strikes we have a shoulder to lean on. When sorrow overwhelms us we are assured that God is carrying us until we can bear to stand again. We have the gift of each other to support us when we can’t seem to cope any longer. At times we serve others and at times others serve us as part of the body of Christ.
Today I wanted to leave you with a special message of hope. Often these folks serve as the only hope a child feels he/she has in the face of apparently impossible situations. Child abuse is not something we want to talk about – at times we may want to deny it takes place in our area. The reality is all too evident. Often a child is abused by someone they know and trust which causes an even deeper level of hurt. Many of these kids are so traumatized they can no longer function because of fear. That is where the face of God appears in the form of Bikers Against Child Abuse. Members of BACA are here today to share a little about their program – what they do and don’t do; as well as the successes and heartaches they have faced. I see this as their ministry as riders seem to be drawn to this very special program. They are making a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable residents. Here is a video that helps to describe BACA, and the members present will be in the fellowship hall after service to answer your questions. [show video]