Raise your hand if you were living and remember Pearl Harbor Day.
Raise your hand if you were living and remember where you were on the date that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated?
Raise your hand if you remember where you were fifteen years ago, on September 11, 2001.
These dates: Pearl Harbor, the date JFK was assassinated and 9/11/2001 are markers for us of events that changed our country, rocked our sense of security and altered the way that people in our country look at the world. And so we pause today – on September 11 - to remember and reflect and pray.
Although we don’t want to get stuck – or be superstitious about dates - the truth is that as a result of the acts of a group of terrorists on 9/11 in 2001, our world changed. It got smaller as we as Americans realized that an ocean is not enough to protect us.
One more question: how many of you carry – or travel with someone who carries -- a cell phone or other electronic device?
The world has gotten even smaller as technology and social media bring us news of events across the world in real time. Whether we get an alert on our phone or whether we listen to the news, we know when there is an earthquake in Italy, refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and political unrest in Brazil, to name a few. And the problems are not only overseas. Many people in our country are very anxious about our upcoming election because the language of and about the candidates has become vitriolic. It’s mean. In North Minneapolis and St. Paul we have protests over police shootings and we have police being attacked while they are attempting to protect the protesters’ right to gather. The problems are not far away. And we are connected to them through the media – almost immediately. It is easy to conclude: our world is in trouble.
Our world is in trouble and people have wondered: Is God strong enough to combat the evil of this world? If God allows such evil – how can God be good? Where is God’s wisdom in our world? Or has the world simply run amuck?
This is not the first time that God’s power, goodness and wisdom have been questioned. Arguing against a Greek humanist philosophy of wisdom, the apostle Paul writes that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of humans. It’s an interesting philosophical debate. But since Jesus didn’t argue philosophy – but rather told stories to illustrate how God works in the world -- I thought I’d tell this story that I heard once of a “conversation in heaven.”
The angels were talking in heaven one day.
The first angel said to the other: Did you hear about God’s plan? God is going to send his son Jesus down to earth as a baby to become one of them to save them from their sins.
The second angel responded: No! You must be wrong. People will kill him.
The first angel said: I know it. You know it. And if WE know it, God’s got to know it.
The second angel said: Hmm. I still don’t think it’s going to work. What’s plan B?
To that God replies: There IS No PLAN B.
There is no Plan B. It seemed foolish to the Jews and the Gentiles. But God’s way is not our way. God sent Jesus to redeem this world – this troubled world – because of God’s great love for us. It seems like it can’t work. It seems foolish. It seemed foolish in Paul’s day too. Paul writes, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”
Jews and Greeks – that’s how people were divided in Paul’s day. And God’s plan seemed crazy or foolish to all who were wise –– then and now.
But despite how crazy or foolish God’s plan may appear, Paul proclaims: “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Likewise, to our diverse world today whether Black, white, Asian, Latino, Arab, native, immigrant, migrant, rich and poor we can proclaim: Jesus Christ is the power of God.
Living after the Resurrection, we know the end of the story. We know that Jesus Christ will triumph. But what does that mean for today?
Let’s go back to what those angels in the story might have said after the resurrection.
The first angel says, “Great job Jesus! You conquered the power of death. I have to admit – I didn’t think it could be done! Not that I’m doubting you.”
The second angel looks at the first and says: “I think you should stop there.”
The first angel says, You are probably right. Good thing there’s grace abundant up here! But I still have a question, “Jesus, what’s next? I mean…you conquered sin and death - but there’s still a big mess in the world.”
Jesus smiles and says, “That’s right – that’s why I called my disciples and empowered them with the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s Mission in the world.”
The second angel said, “I don’t suppose there’s a plan B?”
There is no plan B. It doesn’t sound wise, but if it is foolish, it is GOD’s foolishness. Jesus is counting on us – you and me - the baptized children of God - to carry out God’s mission in the world – and in our world, in the places that we live, eat, work, shop, go to school – in all the places where we go. For, wherever you are, the cross - emblazoned on your forehead - leads the way.
Still - some days it’s hard. When I heard that the remains of Jacob Wetterling had been found – and not only found but the worst nightmare of his family had came true – my stomach churned. Even though my head knew that this was the likely outcome of the story of a boy missing for 27 years, still… my gut ached for his family. There was no more hope for another possibility. As his mother Patty said, “Our hearts are broken.”
It is hard, when we hear stories like this, to affirm that the Love of God can stand up against the evil and suffering of this world. And yet…in the 27 years while they were waiting and hoping, the Wetterling family did not stand idly by – but were busy making the world a safer place for other people’s children. And even after finding out the bitter truth, the Wetterling family again showed incredible courage and faith. When asked what people could do to help, Patty wrote, “Say a prayer. Light a candle. Be with friends. Play with your children. Giggle. Hold hands. Eat ice cream. Create joy. Help your neighbor.”
Pray. Create Joy. Help Your neighbor. Let the love of Christ shine through the broken places – because there is no plan B.
Do not despair. Be of good courage because the Holy Spirit walks with us – and seeks us out even when or maybe especially when our hearts are broken, when we are anxious, afraid and feel lost -- just as the shepherd seeks the lost sheep.
And so, confident of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, as a church we at Faith-Lilac Way can and will be praying and talking about our part in God’s mission for our neighborhood and for our lives. In the upcoming weeks we will be reminded of this as we look together at our mission statement – does it still fit or do we need to update it? We will ponder together: How is God leading us to live into this mission we share today and for our tomorrows?
Remember: we do not need to be anxious or afraid. Because, despite the challenges of this world, God’s love is stronger than evil, God’s goodness is greater than hate and God’s plan – although foolish to the world -- is wiser than all of the world’s wisdom – and it involves you and me.
Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church
September 11, 2016