By Paul Koch–
I was a Vicar at Peace Lutheran Church in Bremerton Washington 17 years ago. I remember, with astonishing clarity, driving down to church early in the morning and listening to some bewildering news on the radio. An airplane, no, make that two airplanes, had struck buildings in New York. Upon arriving at the church Day School office for morning devotions I found all the teachers and staff huddled around the computer watching the news as it was unfolding. It was a bit sketchy and disjointed as the reports came in but the picture began to develop; this was no accident but an attack.
As the World Trade Center came crashing down, that proud Navy town knew that their lives would change forever. This would mean war. Following my mentor’s lead, we greeted the worried parents picking up their children early. We opened the chapel to those who came for comfort and prayer. I was scheduled to preach that coming Sunday and I knew that the sermon I had prepared would be less impactful since an event of this magnitude had changed the landscape.
In the tumultuous hours and days that unfolded, a common question arose louder and louder across our land, “Why?” It is a question that we hear echoed every time man faces incredible suffering and struggle; every funeral of a child, every diagnoses of cancer, every heartbreaking depression that pulls one to the brink. Why? Why would God allow this? Why must we endure such things? Such a question hung heavy in the air those days, and for those who remember, the churches swelled with people seeking an answer.
The problem is we couldn’t find an answer. An answer to this deals with the hidden things of God: His purposes and intentions and desires of which He has not given us access. An answer meant we must rely, then, on our own reasoning and conclusions as God remained silent.
Oh sure, some assholes offered up an answer. Remember Pat Robertson and Jerry Farwell as they tried to peek behind the curtain and tell us why God was allowing such tragedy? (Watch the clip below to jog your memory.) The picture they painted was a terrifying one that drove people to blame and hatred, driven not by the Word of God but by their own passions.
This is nothing new of course; who can blame us for seeking answers?
When we stand before a silent God we despair, go mad, or create a God that is only terrifying and horrible to look upon. For another powerful image of trying to answer the heavy question of “Why?” see the following clip from the incredible movie “God on Trial”. In this clip, prisoners in Auschwitz put God on trial as to whether He has broken His covenant with this people. (This is well worth your time to watch!)
So, all there is left to do is to run.
We run from the silence of God. We run hounded by the unanswered questions of “Why?” We run from the terrifying answers that we create in our own minds and emotions. But where can we run from God?
There is only on place to run; only one place that can give any hope at all. We run to the God that is preached, to the Word that is proclaimed for you, the Word of forgiveness and life and an eternity beyond these passing shadows. We run from the silent God of our own imagination to the God that comes near, the God that becomes our sin, suffers and dies in our place. We run to the God that says, “Take eat this is my body… take drink this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”
I learned on 9-11 that our maddening run from God is often when we run right in the arms of His Son. We may never know “Why?”, but we know of forgiveness and hope. We have heard the promises of healing and life and victory. God may not speak of terrorists and airplanes used as weapons but he speaks of you and a peace to come that surpasses all understanding.