Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; September 11, 2016; Romans 14:5-12

Our Scripture this Sunday will be Romans 14:5-12

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Where were you on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 when you heard the news?

It was a few minutes before 9 am. I walked into the office and saw someone running towards me, cell phone in hand. She said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center. Can you do some magic and get to the CNN website?”

I went into the computer closet, logged into the router and reconfigured it so that everyone could get to the internet. It was 2001, practically the stone age; we didn’t have streaming news yet. The latest news story that we read on the CNN website was that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers.

A few minutes later, as we were frantically pressing the refresh buttons on our browsers, a new report came in saying a second plane hit the other tower.

I remember thinking that maybe the first plane was not as “small” as we were hoping. Something just didn’t seem right.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. News came in bits and pieces: The Pentagon, another plane going down in Pennsylvania, air traffic grounded indefinitely. I remember feeling numb and worried at the same time, calling my wife and then trying to contact my extended family in New York and in Pennsylvania.

I did not see the videos of the buildings collapsing until I got home that afternoon. I did not really know how to feel. The emotions at the prayer service that evening ranged from that of shock and fear to anger and grief.

In the next few days as the news poured in, we saw images of courage and selflessness. There were stories of ordinary people who sacrificed everything to save lives. There were accounts of fire fighters, police officers and rescue workers who were able to conquer their own fears, and were climbing into the burning buildings trying to save lives.

Those of us who were alive on that day will never forget it.

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Today, fifteen years later, there is another question to ask, “How has your perspective and understanding of the world changed? How is it different than it was fifteen years ago as a result of living with the memories of that day?”

How are YOU different?

What have we learned in the last fifteen years?

How have the events of that day shaped our community?

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The meaning of any event is determined by the outcomes, by how this event changes us.

In tragic moments it may be tempting to discard the notion that life has any meaning, to give in to despair, and build a wall around ourselves; we minimize the chance of getting hurt that way. On the other hand, events like these can challenge us to draw closer to God, to explore the breadth and the depth of life’s meaning, and to cherish every moment with friends and loved ones.

The way we respond is a witness to God and we have a choice to make. We can witness to emptiness and despair or we can witness to hope, resurrection, resilience of the human spirit, and the presence of God in our lives.

It has been fifteen years since the events of 9/11 took place. It is important to know where we are emotionally and spiritually as a result of the changes that have happened since that day. Are we more fearful and suspicious? Do we want to isolate ourselves from people who are different from us and whom we perceive as a threat? Have we given in to hateful rhetoric, become less tolerant, more inclined to violence? Do we feel robbed of hope and find it difficult to accept God’s unconditional love? If so, that would make the events of 9/11 a victory for despair, emptiness, and death. That would mean that the terrorists won.

On the other hand, maybe the aftermath of 9/11 caused us to seek a deeper understanding of what it means to live in a global community; to rethink the meaning of what it means to be free, to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus, to be empowered with responsibility and rights of citizenship. Were you challenged to rethink how you connect to your family, your community, your neighbors?

Did our response to the aftermath of 9/11 become a triumph of our community’s resilience, and an affirmation that although the thread of our individual lives is fragile, the fabric of life in Christ is eternal?

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The truth is that the Church that Jesus established has been here before. I am NOT trying to minimize the gravity and pain of what happened on 9/11, but I want to remind all of us that following Jesus’ death on the Cross, his followers lived through a period of anguish trying to understand and make sense of what had just happened. Out of the depth of their despair they were able to discern that Jesus’ death was not evidence of the victory of death, despair, and violence; rather, in his resurrection they experienced a new life and a renewed relationship with God.

Our Christian story affirms that hope is more persistent than despair, that love is more powerful than hate, that life is victorious over death. For the last 2,000 years, countless generations of Christians of different persuasions embodied that hope that is at the core of being a follower of Christ:

  • life is worth living, even when there are times of extraordinary loss;

  • people are worth loving, even when they can be taken from us so unexpectedly; and

  • God is worth trusting, even when we cannot wrap our heads around what we see in front of us.

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That is why Paul wrote, One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. … 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14: 5-8).

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In the same epistle to Romans (chapter 8:35-39), Paul also wrote, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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I started this message by asking you a question, “Where were you on 9/11?” I want to finish this message by asking you a different question, “Where are you today? How has the journey of the last fifteen years changed you and brought you closer to God?”

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In the Epistle to Philippians (chapter 2), Paul wrote, 12 Therefore, my dear friends, … work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

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