“Remembering Our Past, Hoping For Our Future, Dedicating New Life”

September 11, 2016
Jonathan Rumburg
Revelation 21:1-17

Introduction

September 11th, 2001 is a day that many of us will never forget, nor could we ever forget.  We saw planes hit buildings.  We saw people running in fear.  We saw firefighters and police and first responders running with bravery.  We saw smoke billowing.  We saw fire burning.  We saw people falling.  Everything we saw caused us to react and respond with waves of emotions that are impossible to put into words.  All of what we saw, for many of us, drove us to our knees, to churches and to holy sanctuaries to be close to other people of faith, to be close to God.

Even though many would believe, and argue otherwise, without a doubt God was present with our country and our world on September 11th, 2001.  It was not God’s will that our country be attacked.  It was not God’s will that the towers would fall and thousands of lives would be taken from this world.  It was not God’s will to create and craft a war on radical Islamic terrorists.  None of this was God’s will because God’s will is not about destruction and killing.  Rather God’s will is only and always about life, and love, and grace, and redemption, and making all things new.  That is, after all, the basis of the book of Revelation, and all of this is encapsulated in our text for today. That through its words we would see a world that was yet to come, but coming nonetheless.

****Scripture will be read here.***

          For this Welcome Sunday—a Sunday in which we are intentional about setting ourselves on a focused path forward of being the church God calls us to be in our community and beyond—the Worship Team and myself wanted to commemorate the 15th anniversary of September 11th reverently and with honor, yet do it with the faithful model of Revelation—which is to remember our past, create hope for our future with Jesus.  And we are going to do all this in some unique and special ways.  By remembering and by dedicating some individuals and ourselves to new life in Christ.

Move 1

Let us remember our past, particularly that fateful day fifteen years ago.  And let us do so through a special reading and video presentation.

Introduction to: “Meet Me In The Stairwell”

On this 15th anniversary of September 11th, to guide us in our remembrance of this day, we want to share with you a letter, whose author is unknown.  It is written, however, in a particular voice—a voice that will become known and clear as you hear it.

Hear then the letter, “Meet Me in the Stairwell.”

*******

Reading of: “Meet Me In The Stairwell” Author Unknown

You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11, 2001.  Neither will I.

I was on the 110th floor in a smoke-filled room with a man who called his wife to say goodbye. I held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the peace to say, ‘Honey, I am not going to make it, but it’s okay. I am ready to go.’ I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children. I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn’t coming home that night.

I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to Me for help. ‘I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!’ I said. ‘Of course I will show you the way home – only believe in Me now.’

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls. I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer. I was with the crews as they were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of my children there, comforting and assuring them that my Son has saved them.

I was in Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan… I am in the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, France… I am in all the world, with all my children.

I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense Me?  I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name – though not all know Me. Some met Me for the first time on the 86th floor. Some sought Me with their last breath.  Some couldn’t hear Me calling to them through the smoke and flames; ‘Come to Me… this way… take my hand.’ Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.  But I was there.

Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey for you. But someday your journey will end. And I will be there for you as well. I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.  But until that time, remember this day. Remember my Son. Remember Me. And remember that I am with you—always.

Love, God

Move 2

Let us look with hope to the future, while committing ourselves to build a future that is bright, vibrant and filled with new life.  And to do this, we are going to celebrate a number of baby and child dedications to new life this day.

Families and Children being dedicated today:

  • Anne and Danny Reiman and their son Charlie Wayne, born July 19, 2016
  • Troy and Angela Onesti and their son Logan Louis, born March 9, 2013; and daughter Esme Nevada, born January 21, 2015.
  • Chris and Larami Ball and their son Lane, born October 14, 2005; son C.J, born April 9, 2007; and daughter Dixie, born May 20, 2008.
  • Diane and Chris Waite and their son Ben, and daughter Zoe.
  • Carla and Todd Hall, and their daughter Leela Audrey, born August 3, 2013, and son Theodore Jackson “Theo”, born June 2, 2016.

In a world that seems all too often determined to destroy itself, when we see a child, we can be reminded that God is still creating and
that God has not given up.  And neither should we.

Move 3

Let us look with hope to the future, while committing ourselves to build a future that is bright, vibrant and filled with new life.  And to do this, we are going to celebrate, commission, and send off one who has grown up in this church, and later this week, sets off to the Chicago University Divinity School—Jack Veach.

Time of dedication to follow

Conclusion

September 11th, 2001 is a day that many of us will never, nor could we ever forget.  We saw many awful things—planes hit buildings people running in fear, smoke billowing, fire burning.  Everything we saw caused us to react and respond with waves of emotions that are impossible to put into words.  We will never forget what we saw September 11th, 2001.  But may we never forget what we say, and what we have been a part of on September 11th 2016.

We remembered our past, as well we should, but through these young families, these children, through a young man following God’s call for his life, through our willingness and commitment to be supportive in all the ways we can, we have seen a vision of hope and new life for our future.

*******

          The book of Revelation is meant to reveal, disclose, surprise.  It is the perfect close to God’s Holy Word because it depicts a consummation toward which the entire biblical message of redemption is focused.

Revelation 21 is about the renewal of creation—a new heaven and a new earth—all coming by God’s hand because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They are powerful words of hope for the future that is assured, where God will wipe away every tear that this old world has caused us to shed, that God has assured us that death never gets to have the last word, that those who are in need will be cared for, that we are all God’s children.

These words of revelation were intended to bring hope in the dimmest of times—hope for a future that was never guaranteed to be free of conflict or pain, but a future where God would always be present, ready to lead us to a new heaven, a new earth, a new and better day.

May we, as First Christian Church, as Disciples of Christ, as people of faith, welcome and strive for this new and better day, every day, in all that we say and in all that we do.  Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

God of us all, as the world still heaves with violence, and war seems to never end, assure us through our Prince of Peace, that ultimately crying and mourning will be no more.  In the midst of suffering, our own and that of the world, speak again, Creator God, your performative Word of life and its goodness.

As we consider that Fall day 15 years ago, grant us the ability to cling to the examples of goodness that emerged out of the horror: strangers banding together to thwart more carnage, people lining up to donate blood, congregations opening their doors to offer respite for anyone and everyone, people offering comfort and care to those they knew and those they’d never met.

May these acts of mercy emulated in our lives be the ripple that reverberates through history, revealing your sure power to bring redemption, reconciliation and resurrection out of the depths of death and despair.

God of hope and God of new life, on this the 15-year anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, on this day when we remember the atrocity that was inflicted upon our country and our world, we ask you to make us aware of the presence of your Holy Spirit, and how you have led us, with hope, to better days since that fateful day.

We ask you grant us the wisdom to remember the lessons from that tragic day that can make us more Christ-like.

We ask you drive away any vengeful urges, any hate-filled sentiment, any whisper from within or without that goads us to return evil for evil.

May the images of fifteen years ago not be replaced, but amended, with images of today—when we have dedicated children to your holy and blessed care, when we have lifted to you one you have called to full-time Christian ministry, when we have pledged in our hearts, and out loud, to you our loving and prayerful support to young families.

May today be a September 11th that is memorable for the honor we have sought to give—to those in this earthly life, and to those who live eternally with you.

We bid you to listen now to the prayers of our hearts, offered in this time of Holy Silence.

All this we pray in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, who taught us to pray, saying, “Our…”

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