For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
Suppose you had been commissioned to create a memorial to September 11: what would yours look like?
Remember, memorials can be tricky things. Some folks look at memorials and monuments and draw totally different conclusions from other people. Some memorials – such as Maya Lin’s memorial in Washington to the Vietnam War – are intended to spark debate and differing interpretations.
So what do you want to memorialize about 9-11?
Some of you might choose to highlight the heroism displayed in the wake of the attacks. Others of you might emphasize the profound grief arising from 9-11. Still others of you might underscore the call to arms that America was issued that day.
All of these subjects are fine – but in the end, they miss the point.
Biblically speaking, if you are going to capture the meaning of 9-11 in a memorial, you only need two words: “explanation” and “expectation.”
St. Paul probably did not encounter mass terrorism as you and I witnessed on 9-11. Surely he would have been disgusted by the events of that morning,
Surprised, not for a moment.
Writing some 1,950 years earlier, the apostle offers in his letter to the Romans an explanation for what transpired on September 11, 2001: our world has been broken by evil. Paul, clearly reflecting on Genesis 3, teaches that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s authority in Eden, the Lord had to punish them and their posterity. A holy God simply can’t overlook sin.
And so He subjected this world to vanity, or to confusion and to pain. It wasn’t God’s desire to do so; but the brokenness of this fallen creation is what you and I have earned for ourselves. The entire creation, including trees and pets and, this day, grieving loved ones, groans together in pain.
During a documentary I was watching last night, a firefighter said 9-11 forced him “to realize something I hadn’t wanted to admit: just how evil evil can be.” Evil runs rampant in our world because of Adam and Eve’s sin, and you and I have a part in that evil as well.
In the end, why did 9-11 happen? Because you and I are fallen creatures living in a world subjected to fallenness and to decay.
Your memorial to 9-11 also, though, must include expectation: the expectation of glory to come.
This world should not captivate the Christian. Indeed, it would be hard to expect too much from this world, riddled as it is with cancer and with crime. That’s not to downplay God’s good gifts – not by any stretch.
But if you thought you could find ultimate happiness in this life, 9-11 testifies otherwise.
That’s why our Christ-centered memorial needs to look past the curse and even past the heroism of the day to a greater Day, when our triumphant Savior will return to make all things new.
After Adam’s fall, God subjected the creation to vanity and to confusion – but He did so in hope. Not only did God pronounce a righteous curse on the created order, He put angels with flaming swords outside the Garden to keep man from eating of the tree of life and living in this broken world forever. In the midst of a bleak scene, hope – in the promise of Christ, our Savior – was born.
It is such an emotional day. So draining, so moving. So many memorials all around the country and world.
As you recall the sadness and the heroism of that day, remember the even greater message God has for you in the rubble: though you and I dwell in a sin-scarred world, our Savior is coming again – and he will make all things new.