Dr. Hal Brady
With most of our attention riveted on Hurricane Irma, the 16th anniversary of 9/11 quietly passed by. Oh, to be sure, there were some observances and rightly so. And it was also appropriate and necessary that we focused on the monstrous Hurricane Irma.
However, Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, will live forever in our memories. That was the day of the unthinkable. Who will ever forget the terrorist attack on our nation – those planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the heroic struggle aboard the highjacked United Airlines flight 93? The end result, of course, being a fiery crash in the fields of Shanksville, Penn. Etched in our memories are pictures of victims, bereaved families, people looking for loved ones, unsung heroes and heroines, petitioners at prayer, memorial services, testimonials to public servants, and a nation responding. We will never forget.
But in our 16th anniversary reflection, we remember some other things as well. First, we remember that God is the Source of our strength! Psalm 46 is a psalm of confidence. Undoubtedly, it was written during a time of national crisis. The entire psalm is in the plural. “God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). Though the earth changes and the mountains shake, the psalmist still affirms God.
What is a refuge anyway? A refuge is defined as a “shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc.” God is our shelter, our dwelling place, our secure abode.
You will remember the name Todd Beamer. He was the hero who led the fight against the hijackers of United Flight 93 that ultimately crashed. At 9:45 a.m. that fateful morning, after the hijackers had taken the plane, he called GTE operator Lisa Jefferson and asked her to say the Lord’s Prayer with him. He was seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. Surrounded by terror and knowing that he was likely facing his final moments, Todd prayed the words that Jesus taught us. For Todd Beamer, God was his refuge and strength.
Second, we remember that faith is the answer to fear! The psalmist stated, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1-2). The simple truth is, you and I need more of God. When our fears cause panic, it is a sure sign that our hearts need God.
Note that when the psalmist faced his fears, his first thought was about God. This is not only true of this occasion, but it is also true of the psalmist on numerous other occasions as well. For instance, the psalmist said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
It is everlastingly true that fear is overcome when faith is placed in the Presence – the Presence of God. For sure, take an appropriate amount of responsibility for your life – for your behavior, your safety and other. But don't take it all. God didn’t create you to make it by yourself. God would be disappointed if you bought into that illusion.
I like that the familiar saying because it’s true: “Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, and there was no one there.”
Third, we remember that freedom is costly! The American Dream, which in my estimation, is America’s greatest contribution to the world, has sustained us throughout our history. It is the ideal of freedom. Justice, opportunity and hope for all. And the battlefields of the world have been and continue to be laced with American service personnel placing their lives in harm’s way to preserve this ideal. Most of us know that this American Dream is not yet fully developed and is never safe. Consequently, to keep it, all of us will have to continually give our best efforts and remain vigilant. Freedom is not guaranteed nor is it free.
Finally, we remember that love is the only real solution! We are to work for a world of justice, righteousness, and peace. As people of faith, it seems to me that our task today is not simply to confront terrorists but to eliminate the causes of terrorism wherever we can. That’s certainly one of the places where we need to spend our time and efforts.
Well-known minister Tony Campolo said, “5,000 people die in one day because of the insanity of terrorists. It’s shocking. I’m not going to get over it ever; I know that. But hear me now. While we slept last night 30,000 children under the age of 12 died of starvation or disease related to malnutrition. Did you hear me? 5,000 people die in Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania because of terrorists, but 30,000 children die of hunger.”
We simply have to love enough to act. To conclude, let’s use Todd Beamer’s famous words that appeared in newspapers all across the country: “Are you guys ready? Let's roll!” he told the other men on that plane. In the name of justice, righteousness, and peace, are you guys ready? Let’s roll!
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.