Never Forgets Jeremiah 33:14-16
September 12, 2021
Today is September 12th. The day after September 11th. A day that not only reshaped Manhattan’s skyline, but the very soul of our country.
I remember the day very well. Because it was a day that is not easily forgotten. The sun was barely up. And the city of Los Angeles was eerily quiet. And that quiet was interrupted by a frantic phone call from my dear friend Janice.
It took me a moment to register what she was saying. “Turn on the TV, now!” she screamed. By then the second plane had just crashed into the South Tower. Kathleen, who was 8 ½ months pregnant with our first child, awoke as the World Trade Center was engulfed with flames. Together we watched as each tower crumbled to the ground, along with the world we knew.
For those of you who were around 20 years ago, you have your own story about this horrific and tragic day when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists unleashed the deadliest foreign attack on US soil. No matter how we tell our stories, each one always ends with 2,977 men, women, and children dead. And countless family and friends left to pick up the pieces.
Many of you, like me, wrestled with your faith that day. And perhaps caused you to even question God’s faithfulness. May we never forget what the young prophet Jeremiah told us.
READ: Jeremiah 33:14-16
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord.” But on days like September 11, 2001, I can’t help but ask, “When will you come?”
I know as well as you do, that bad things happen every day. Death is inevitable. Not even Jesus, God’s own beloved son, could elude it. But every time I see that plane crash into the second tower, or when I see pictures of the bloody, dust cover rescuers from Ground Zero it makes me wonder if God has forgotten us. Or if God even knows we’re here.
Watching that great, dark cloud bury and choke millions of people fleeing from Manhattan, it’s not hard to imagine why some people might question God’s memory, and providence and power. Or simply deny God’s existence altogether. I’m sure some of you, when in facing your own personal tragedies, have thought, “Where was God when this happened to me?”
I wish I had the answer. But I don’t. I don’t know why God allowed planes full of people to crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I don’t know why God allowed 343 heroic first responders to be buried in the rubble. Something I do know, is God’s word is good. And God is faithful to us even when we are not faithful back.
The Bible is filled with stories of God’s faithfulness being fulfilled in the most unexpected ways, but none is greater than the one of God’s love made manifest in an innocent and vulnerable baby. A love God ordained through hatred, violence, and death.
We are a part of that story, of God’s love and faithfulness to all that God created.
Yesterday I saw so many posts of memories, pictures, and thought about what happened 20 years ago. Nearly everyone was had the hashtag never forget. The sentiment is nice. But I fear that maybe we have forgotten. Not the day. Not the destruction or the evil that caused it to happen. But the emotional feelings we had, and the unity that happen afterwards.
As I look back at all those photos and read all the stories of people helping one another survive, I am led to believe God does not abandon us nor forget us. Even in the horror and pain that was experienced that day, I can say God was there with us in the self-giving acts of love. “The day is coming when I will fulfill the promise…” God says, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
Jeremiah’s words remind us of God’s persistent and fierce loyalty. But while such affirmations show us the true character of God, and the ongoing providence of God, bad things can still happen. As long as we allow evil to remain in the world, our faith and faithfulness will remain vulnerable to attack. Thus, we need to be vigilant in our faith, which is so important to our redemption and grace that God was willing to come to us as one of us, to show us how to live our faith faithfully.
Here’s what we need to remember. Faith in Jesus Christ is more than a word or making the right statement. It’s also about being the visible presences of God’s glory. It’s about allowing God’s love to become incarnate through our many small acts of kindness. Our faith must remain “faithful” to the God who loves us and saves us from harming others or ourselves. Like Jesus showed us, wherever God’s love is present, evil cannot prevail.
“The many disasters in our world, and all the tragedies that happen to people each day, can lead us to despair and convince us that we are the sad victims of circumstances. But Jesus looks at these events in a radically different way. He calls them opportunities to be living witnesses of God's unconditional love, opportunities to testify and participate in God’s Kingdom and redemption. This is how we look beyond the passing structures of our temporary existence to the eternal life promised to us.” (Nouwen)
Placing our faith in a system or an institution that can be attacked or destroyed has historically led to the downfall of every great empire. But the faith that is placed in the indestructible love of God is unbreakable and everlasting. By putting our faith in the promises that God made to us through Christ Jesus, we can preserver and overcome the obstacles and enemies who try to knock us down.
While September 11th was a wake-up call for us and the church to hold fast to the fiercely loyal steadfast love of God in Jesus Christ, it was September 12th that reminded us we can’t do this alone. We need each other as much as we need God.
I may not know why God allows bad things to happen, but I now know why we allow them to. I also know that wherever great suffering and pain exist, so do endless opportunities for God’s love to be seen in us and through us. This is not to say that faith and faithfulness is the easy path to take. This was clearly proven when our country was attacked again, not by a terrorist group but by a deadly virus.
As of today, COVID has taken the lives of over 660,000 American citizens. And nearly 41 million people around the world. By the end of the day, another 1,500 American citizens will die. And by tomorrow, 1,500 more will likely succumb to something that could easily be prevented.
You see, COVID doesn’t have an agenda, it’s not trying to make a political or ideological statement. It doesn’t pick sides or determine who is better than the other. It infects us all just as it affects us all.
The difference between September 12, 2001, and September 12, 2021, is mind boggling. Instead of uniting against this common enemy, our country has become more divided than ever. Instead of loving our neighbors and doing selfless acts of kindness for one another, we’ve become selfish, spiteful, and self-centered.
Sadly, the Body of Christ is not immune. The church has been infected with this idea that our personal rights are above a call to be righteous.
Jesus himself issued a stark warning to his followers (Matthew 24:36-44). That day will come like a thief in the night. Be prepared.
In his letter to the Thessalonians church, the Apostle Paul warns us to remain sober, and be people of the light who encourage one another and build each other up; not divide and tear one another down (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
We must remain faithful to God’s incarnate love; helping each other from getting discouraged or depressed; offering hope and forgiveness and reconciliation, no matter the risk or our personal discomfort. Our faith hangs with Christ Jesus whose cross was more uncomfortable than some mask. And whose gospel is certainly riskier than any vaccine.
Therefore, I urge all who claim Christ’s name to never forget. Never forget that Jesus showed us a way to live a life of faith knowing our hope and salvation hangs on our faithfulness. To follow Christ through the resurrection requires a willingness on your behalf, to pick up your cross and truly follow him. To live as he did; healing, caring, and forgiving, seeking peace and justice, righting wrongs and redeeming people back to God in all the ways we live out God’s love faithfully in the world.
For those of you who refuse to wear a mask in public spaces, or get vaccinated for the health and well-being of your community, remember what the Bible has to say: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Our stories, our lives, our day-to-day interactions must be interwoven, not just with one another but also with God through Christ Jesus. This is where our strength lies and our faith blooms.
As you leave here today, on this special day of remembrance, may we never forget that when your faith is woven with God’s steadfast love, you inherit a power that not even death can conquer. With great power comes greater responsibility.
May you never forget that in Christ, God’s love prevails. And by his selfless act, we have been made beloved children of a God who is fiercely loyal and faithful to a fault; the one who remembers us, sustains us, and saves us every time the world comes crashing down upon us.
Never forget. In Christ, love wins.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A. Vol. 3 Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Indermark, John. The Greatest of These: Biblical Moorings of Love. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.
Nouwin, Henri. Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. New York: Harper Collins, 2009.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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