President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this Day of Prayer and Remembrance. We needed it at this time.
We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that He's "the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles."
No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September 11 will go down in our history as a day to remember.
Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Some day those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated.
But today, we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. We've always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We're facing a new kind of enemy. We're involved in a new kind of warfare and we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible's words are our hope: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Psalms 46:1-2
But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have.
We've seen so much on our television, heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.
But what are some of the lessons we can learn?
First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil.
I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He's a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a "mystery." In 2 Thessalonians 2:7
it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" He asked that question, "Who can understand it?" And that's one reason we each need God in our lives.
The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly, it's a lesson about our need for each other.
What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days! None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous fire-fighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues, or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart, but instead it has united us and we've become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way. It's backlashed; it's backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang, God Bless America.