The Eighteenth Anniversary

Hard to believe today marks the 18th anniversary of the day we know as 9/11. How well I recall where I was and what I was doing Sept. 11, 2001, when hearing the news of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. How well I also remember the second such incident, another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower moments later.

Then the tragic news continued. A third airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. And yet a fourth plane whose passengers thwarted another hijack attempt crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93. Those airlines and flights are etched into the annals of American and world history.

The four attacks killed 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others. Additional women and men died from 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years that followed.

All four attacks were coordinated against the United States by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. The events of 9/11 comprise the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters (343 died during and following the attacks) and law enforcement officers (72 lost their lives) in the history of the United States of America.

As some of you are aware, all this occurred only three days after my installation as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I was leading a staff meeting in the LCMS International Center. Numerous related events transpired during my nine year presidency.

One of my most poignant memories of this historic tragedy is the full page letter unanimously approved by the LCMS Council of Presidents for publication in USA Today and The New York Times Oct. 2, 2001, three weeks after the event. Here is the letter:

A Promise – The New York Times and USA Today – October 2, 2001

In the aftermath of our nation’s tragedy three weeks ago today, we of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod wholeheartedly offer our love and prayers for those tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.

At such a time it is natural to wonder how we can get on with life.

Still heavy with the burden or our enormous loss, we face the potential for even more danger at our doorstep. And as we look out upon the world seeking a promise of comfort and hope, we may see only darkness.

Yet we are not the first people to suffer such darkness, nor to long for such a promise.

David in the Old Testament, in time of great personal and national distress, looked to God and took comfort in His promise:

“The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” 

Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our “Good Shepherd,” spoke words that are particularly poignant right now:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”    

That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death … and His own death and resurrection promise hope and comfort to us all.

In these days of great personal and national trial, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul as we struggle with ‘getting on with life’:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And that’s His promise!

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 9.10.17 AM.png
Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
St. Louis, MO
www.lcms.org

This day will never be forgotten. Lord, have mercy!

America Remembers

WTC KieschnickFourteen years ago today, life changed in America and around the world. Most of us vividly remember that day, September 11, 2001, now known worldwide as 9/11. Images of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City burning and collapsing are indelibly etched in our minds and hearts.

Today many Americans are observing, participating in and watching TV coverage of ceremonies in New York City, at the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania. The names of those who lost their lives that day are being read by relatives in somber observances. America remembers 9/11.

On September 19, just over one week after the devastation, Atlantic District President Dr. David Benke and I visited Ground Zero in New York City. Dave’s wife Judy and my wife Terry have special, heartfelt recollections of that day and the days that followed. So do many others in our national church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

In a meeting of the LCMS Council of Presidents September 22-25, 2001, leaders of our church reached out to the nation by drafting and unanimously approving a full page statement published October 2, 2011, in USA Today and The New York Times. The text of that statement, titled A Promise, is posted below my signature.

If you were alive September 11, 2001, and old enough that day to grasp the gravity of what occurred, you will always remember 9/11. And so will I, remembering God’s promise that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

A Promise – The New York Times and USA Today – October 2, 2001

In the aftermath of our nation’s tragedy three weeks ago today, we of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod wholeheartedly offer our love and prayers for those tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.

At such a time it is natural to wonder how we can get on with life.

Still heavy with the burden or our enormous loss, we face the potential for even more danger at our doorstep. And as we look out upon the world seeking a promise of comfort and hope, we may see only darkness.

Yet we are not the first people to suffer such darkness, nor to long for such a promise.

David in the Old Testament, in time of great personal and national distress, looked to God and took comfort in His promise:

“The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our “Good Shepherd,” spoke words that are particularly poignant right now:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  

That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death … and His own death and resurrection promise hope and comfort to us all.

In these days of great personal and national trial, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul as we struggle with ‘getting on with life’:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And that’s His promise!

One Dozen Years Ago

World Trade CenterThis past Sunday, September 8, marked the anniversary of my initial installation one dozen years ago as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It was a memorable day, likely forgotten by many, surely remembered by a few.

What I remember most about that day was an overwhelming sense of humility and awe, surrounded by family, friends, past and present co-workers, and many complete strangers. We all had gathered in The Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

Lots of pomp and circumstance was the order of the day. That included a procession of the 35 white-robed, red-stoled district presidents with whom I had worked for the previous decade on the Council of Presidents, the newly elected Synod vice-presidents and Board of Directors.

But what I remember even more clearly than that service of installation was what occurred three days later on Tuesday, September 11. You’ve probably figured out that one dozen years ago was the year of our Lord 2001. Our country marked that anniversary yesterday, September 11, 2013.

Anyone alive at that time and most people born since then know that what is now simply called “9/11” was a time of shock, horror, grief, death and devastation. It will be remembered, long after we’re all gone, as a turning point in America’s history.

Before 9/11 we boarded airplanes without airport security lines, time consuming shoe and outer clothing removal and X-ray scanning we must now endure in order to provide at least a modicum of safety assurance prior to boarding. How strange and frustrating in the land of the free!

All this, and much more, is a reflection of the challenges facing the church in a society and world comprised of many people, in the U.S. and beyond, who do not value God-given life. Folks who walk down chapel aisles for installation to important offices have significant responsibility in trying to change that sad reality. But we/they cannot do it alone.

Many experiences in my life, including that installation of one dozen years ago, remind me that the real work of changing the world by influencing people for Christ is done by the faithful people of God in congregations and communities. You are the ones who influence families, co-workers, neighbors and fellow citizens to be the salt and light our Lord intends us to be! (Matt. 5:13-15)

“So let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Doing so requires much more than just one dozen years!
Jerry Kieschnick with Blog Background
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick