Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 46:3-5, 8-10
New Testament Reading- Luke 22:14-20
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -September 11, 2022, Patriot Day
"When we forget God, we are doomed."
I remember where I was on September 11, 2001, I remember exactly what we all did when we heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Tower in New York City. We didn’t pull out our phones, not back then, phones were just phones then, not minicomputers. We all crowded around a television set with terrible aerial reception. We watched as one tower of the famous Twin Towers billowed smoke on that clear September morning. We thought, how tragic for those on the plane and those in the building, what a fluke accident.
Then the unthinkable happened, as we were watching live television, another passenger plane flew into the second tower, wait a minute, that was no accident. We all turned to each other in disbelief, shocked that terrorism had reached a new, horrible height. We continued to watch as people leaped to their deaths to avoid the horrendous heat in the building from the jet fueled fireball. We watched as police and fire fighters ran not away from
the building, but into it, in their selfless pursuit to help others. We watched in terror as the towers collapsed, one after another, and we watched as people from blocks around were covered in ash and dust, their cries for help, the only way of knowing that they were even real human beings. We watched and we remember, we will always remember.
The events of that day, seemed surreal, the attacks on the Towers, the Pentagon, and the brave passengers that sacrificed themselves to bring down their plane in a field instead of allowing the hijackers to continue to their intended target in Washington D.C. No one knew if this was over yet, what about Chicago, L.A., or Dallas, could they be next?
I felt similar on May 31, 1985. I was having a party with my friends at my parents’ house. The party was to start at 7 PM, but before 5 PM the sky was starting to look really odd; the colors weren’t right, and the winds were really strong with the sounds of thunder and lightning streaking through the sky. I remember that we were listening to the radio when an emergency weather report was given warning everyone about tornadoes. We continued listening to the radio and watching the skies as the news listed, Albion, Union City, Corry, Centerville, and Warren County as sites where tornadoes had been seen. We were right in the middle of all those places. I remember thinking that any moment a tornado would appear out of the sky, and we would be forced to run to the basement. Needless to say, the party was cancelled and the next day we took a drive to see what was damaged. I had never seen anything like it and thankfully have never seen anything like it since. The destruction was terrible. Lives were lost, property and homes were lost, pets and farm animals were lost, and forests were decimated in huge swaths. We had learned about tornadoes in school, but nothing could prepare you for that level of destruction, and to happen so fast was scary.
Both of these events happened in my lifetime, and I am sure that those of you who are older than I am could add to these, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, and Bobby Kennedy. These are all moments in history that we remember; where we were, what we were doing, how we felt, how society reacted, and what impact it had on our lives. We remember these things because they were major moments in our lives, and in the lives of others. Moments that were unlike everyday life, moments that impacted what happened after the event. More recently I am sure none of us will forget the pandemic, Covid-19. We may not all agree about many facets of the pandemic, but we will all remember it, and we will remember how it changed some things going forward.
We remember an event as to pay honor to it or to the people who had things to do with it, like 9-11 we remember as to honor the lives that were lost and to honor the bravery of those who risked their lives to help others, regardless of whether they lost their lives in the process or not. We also remember things so that what we were to learn from the event will never leave us. Many that experienced the great depression would never forget it and how it changed their lives enough that they always tried to avoid the same thing happening again.
When the ancient Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, God brought them out of slavery with His mighty hand. He caused all the plagues of Egypt to show His power to both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. He used Moses to guide His people out and to be an interpreter for Him. God parts the Red Sea to foil the Egyptian army. For forty years, God guided them through the desert to teach them and to discipline them to become His people. From that time to this very day God tells His people, to remember what He did for them and to never forget it. He tells them this because it is important to remember our right relationship with God. God is the Almighty, not us, I know that may seem odd to say that, but it is true, and it is of utmost importance to remember our place in respect to God, not because He wants to lord over us, but because He loves us and knows that we will destroy ourselves without Him in our lives. When we forget God, we are doomed. Isaiah 46:3-5 tells us,
"Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. “With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? God tells them this so that they forget the false gods of Egypt and so they do not set themselves or some other created thing to worship and lead them down a wrong and destructive path. He continues in Isaiah 46:8-10, “Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
"From that time to this very day God tells His people, to remember what He did for them and to never forget it," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Fast forward over fifteen hundred years, and a new shaker is alive in the Promised Land, His name is Jesus, and He is not only a history maker, but “The” history maker. No other single person in history, whether you believe in Him or not, has affected history the way Jesus did. As I said, even if you don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, you will still have a hard time convincing anyone that the world isn’t a different place because of Him and His followers. I don’t think you could even imagine what the world would be like if He had never done what He has done. Of course, for those of us that do believe that Jesus is the Christ, the One and only Son of the Living God, we certainly know the value of His mission and ministry, yet He still knew we would need reminding. Human beings have not changed much since the dawn of time, we are still self-absorbed and short sighted. In the last week of His life, before His arrest, He told His followers to go and prepare a place for observing the Passover meal. Luke 22:14-20 records the following,
“When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table. And He said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.' After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'
"In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'
Jesus always chose His words carefully and it was no different at this momentous occasion. From that moment to this very day, Christians all over the world and of every generation have come together at the Lord’s table to commune with Him through His body and blood, the bread and the wine, we remember and never forget the sacrifice that He made for us. That through His death our sins were forgiven and through His resurrection He defeated death forever allowing those who believe in Him to do the same.
We remember events usually because they were bad, tragic, or life changing, but we must make a choice not to continue to live in these moments while the rest of life passes us by. God is always with us through the most difficult times in life, through trauma, through despair, through natural disaster, through tragedies, through pandemics, through sickness, and through death, but He does not leave us in these times of need but carries us through to the other side of it. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God never leaves us in darkness, but always provides His light to show us the way. Jesus tells us in John 16:21,
"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”
We all see tragedy and death at some point in our lives, but do you let it stop you from living? We have all seen momentous events like 9-11 or the recent pandemic, but is that where you want to live, in that moment, forever? Or, would you rather remember it for what it was and allow God to carry us to the other side of our grief to life anew? If the woman in Jesus’ illustration never gets over the pain of childbirth, she never enjoys of love and promise of new life in her baby and the joys that will fill her life after.
God allows grief and sadness so that we may fully experience life, that we can understand just how important some people or things are in our lives, not for us to remain there the rest of our lives. Allow God the opportunity to carry you past your hardships so that He may set you down on the sandy beaches of another part of your life. We can choose to remember the events of September 11, 2001, as a hateful terrorist attack that took thousands of innocent lives, or we can remember it for a tragic day that saw thousands die, but many more millions come together to help each other, to embrace strangers as family, and to pray to God like hasn’t been seen in a long, long time. The terrorists thought they achieved a victory that day, but they did not, what they thought would tear us apart, only brought us closer together. Just like the events of Jesus’ life, Satan meant to kill Jesus to stop His mission, but he just walked right into what God had planned all along. Jesus told His disciples that their grief would turn to joy when they saw and really realized what God the Father would achieve through Jesus the Son, and He was right.
I remember these momentous times in history, and will never forget them, but I will remember them for the right reasons. I will remember them for honoring sacrifice, for honoring courage, for honoring the love of people brought together through tragedy. I will remember that God is the answer to our every prayer and that there isn’t a mess made by man that is too big for Him to clean up. I will remember that every time I drink the cup and eat the bread, I receive Jesus Christ into myself and that I share this tradition with countless saints of all times and in all places. I remember that God the Father loves us more than we could ever imagine and that what He has planned for those who love Him, no word can describe. I remember, I will always remember, thank God, the Almighty remembers too. Thanks be to God. Amen.