Remembering September 11, 2001

Image result for world trade center

This week I’ll be sending two issues of Perspectives. Although it regularly comes on Thursday, I cannot let today pass without a remembrance of what happened on this day 17 years ago.

Terry and I had just settled into our home in St. Louis after leaving behind our family and friends in Texas. Three days earlier, September 8, I had been installed as the 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, our national church body.

What happened September 11, 2001 occupies only a couple pages in the history books now being studied by high school students, most of whom who were not yet alive in 2001. But the events of 9/11 are indelibly etched in the memories of those of us who lived the experience.

Terry and I hold in our hearts and prayers all who were directly or indirectly affected by the events of this day 17 years ago. That includes children whose parents did not pick them up from school that day and parents whose adult children did not return to their homes that evening.

My prayer is that the memories of 9/11 will cause us to give thanks for the women and men who provide first response to disasters in our beloved country. Especially in times of catastrophe and chaos, these heroes unselfishly rush to the scene to do whatever they can to preserve the lives of those who survive and to honor the lives of those who don’t.

We also give thanks to God for the women and men of our military forces. They bravely confront the sources of evil around the world, leaving behind spouse, children, comfort, and safety in order to prevent a repetition of the events that catalyzed the memories of this day.

Evil men will always be inspired by satanic forces to inflict death and devastation wherever possible. September 11, 2001 is a prime example. Although the context is different from that in which these words were written by the apostle Paul, they are nonetheless appropriate for this day: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)

May the remembrances of this day, with the power of almighty God, inspire and encourage us to do exactly that!

Prayer Shaming

Prayer

In the wake of ongoing acts of terror that have become almost daily events in places around the world, it’s heartening to see responses of young people. Although perhaps a bit naïve in some respects, they are to be commended for speaking out about such important matters as prayer.

This past week I saw a Facebook posting from a group of Catholic High School students. It uses the increasingly popular format of numerous individual students, each holding one sheet of paper, with printed words that, viewed sequentially, form a message. The title of this one is “prayer shaming.” Each line represents the content of one or more hand held pages.

The secret of Christian living is love. Only love fills the empty spaces caused by evil.
Our generation doesn’t remember life before September 11 but we’ll never be able to forget life after it.
What’s terrifying about San Bernardino, Newtown, and so many others…
…is the shattering sameness of them.
It seems like every week there’s another report of death and destruction.
Many ask, “Where was God when that shooting happened?”
Until we realize that we’ve told God to leave.
So many have told God that he’s not welcome in public, on TV, in schools.
We’re told our “thoughts and prayers” shouldn’t be with the victims…
…that “prayers” should be reserved for “forgiveness.”
It’s as if a new trend is sweeping the country – “Prayer shaming.”
Football players are glorified for drugs and immoral actions.
But a football player talks about his faith and he’s judged.
On college campuses students are told to hide their faith so they don’t “offend” anyone.
So today, we as students of East Catholic High School – and as Americans – are taking a stand.
We encourage people of all faiths to stand together, and to pray.
Pray for the victims.
Pray for the families.
Pray for our First Amendment, that lets us all pray freely.
Pray for safety.
Pray for peace.
Pray that God is allowed back into our lives, without the prayer shame.
And pray that we may once again become one nation, under God, indivisible…
…with liberty and justice for all.

Possible or even probable collateral naivety aside, I say, “Right on, young friends in Christ!”

A Simple Question

Question MarkBefore getting to this week’s topic, a note about two very important events observed this week:

  • July 4 is Independence Day in America. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. America has been called “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” That distinction is being challenged these days. God bless America!
  • July 5 is the 21st birthday of Terry’s and my dear grandson, Kolby Ryan Keith. He’s a very fine young man who brings much joy to his family and to many other people. God bless you, Kolby! Mimi and I love you very much!

Now to A Simple Question. Lots of bad things happened last week and, so far, this week:

  • The savage and satanic killing of nine Christian women and men in a Charleston church.
  • The massacre of at least 39 people, mostly foreigners, on a beach in Sousse, Tunisia.
  • The mid-air explosion of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket after Cape Canaveral liftoff.
  • A 350 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • The Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states of the U.S.

The Supreme Court ruling drew lots of attention. Almost immediately after its release, religious and political leaders from the U.S. and other parts of the world offered their opinions. Some were emotional. Some were rational. Some were theological. Some were political.

Rather than add a lengthy opinion to that growing body of literature, I suggest we consider one simple question. Carried to its logical conclusion, if same-sex marriage someday replaces traditional marriage, either totally or essentially, from whence will the next generation(s) come?

God ordained marriage as a special, lifelong union of one man and one woman. His plan includes the natural order of procreation by which the population of the world is replenished by the fertilization of an egg from the body of a woman by a sperm from the body of her husband.

Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, both still requiring egg and sperm and both including their own set of moral and ethical questions, are the current options. In the future, watch the soaring value of companies that specialize in those procedures.

Hard decisions for church and clergy may very well lie ahead. In the meantime, the church needs to continue to be the church, proclaiming the Word of God in all its truth and purity. That includes the miracle of God’s grace, his undeserved love and forgiveness for sinners—male and female, young and old, black and brown and white, heterosexual and homosexual.

The church should never condone what God’s Word considers sinful. Nor is it our place to judge, a responsibility reserved for God alone. Here’s one Law and Gospel reality: When we think someone else does not deserve God’s grace, we need to remember that neither do we.

Especially at this time of previously unthinkable developments, Lord, have mercy!

Boston Bombing—The New Reality?

Boston Bombing 1Another act of senseless violence occurred this week in what has become a litany of death and destruction in public places in America. At the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon, explosions took the lives of three people, including an eight-year old boy who was waiting for his father to finish the race. His six-year old sister and their mother were seriously injured.

In addition, over 175 people sustained severed limbs, shrapnel wounds and other severe injuries. At this writing, 17 are still in critical condition. Many victims were near exhaustion from just having completed the 26.2 mile run through the streets of that historic town. Please pray for the grieving families who lost loved ones, those who struggle for life and those who face lengthy recovery.

Obviously, attacks of violence are not new. They’ve been occurring for years, even in America. My brief review of recorded suicide bombs, car bombs, multiple bomb blasts, explosions, sniper attacks and other violent activities around the world produced an astonishing catalog of such manifestations of man’s inhumanity to man.

Wikipedia, a well known but not entirely dependable internet resource, provided a chronological listing of such activities that have occurred around the world since the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center towers. Between 2001 and 2007, more than 450 terrorist activities have occurred around the world. Here are the astonishing numbers from 2008-2012:

· 2008: 281
· 2009: 290
· 2010: 106
· 2011: 357
· 2012: 253

Total from 2008-2012: 1,287

The Heritage Foundation’s survey of terrorist incidents around the world between 1969 and 2009 indicates that 7.8% were directed against the U.S. My non-exhaustive research did not discover similar information from that source (or any other) for the past three years.
It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of these heinous activities took place in countries other than America. Among the leaders in this category (a nebulous distinction) are Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and a number of other Middle Eastern, European and African countries.

However, the question in my mind these days (and I know I’m not alone) is to what extent the freedom we enjoy in America has become super fertile ground for the proliferation of terrorist activities in the United States.

Are we living in a new reality that enemies of freedom and of Christianity will accelerate the frequency and severity of their dastardly deeds in the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Lord, have mercy!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!