Whenever some shocking or unexpected event takes place, that memory is indelibly etched into the crevices of our minds. The horrific events on September 11, 2001, is a fitting case in point.
Each year on the anniversary of that day, when the victims are remembered and the scenes are replayed on TV, our minds flash back to that fateful time. We can remember where we were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking as the grim news of that day unfolded. Once again, even years, later, we’re reminded that life is precious. And no matter how strong or great we are, we realize once again that we are all vulnerable to tragedies which can alter the course of our lives.
Who can forget that day that will live in infamy? At first, when the North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit, we didn’t think of terrorists—religious fanatics, no less—hijacking airplanes and using them for bombs. Who could or would dare do such a thing to us? When we first saw the smoke, fire, and gaping hole in the tower, it still hadn’t hit most of us what was really going on. But minutes later, when a second plane slammed through the South Tower, it was rather obvious that terrorists were behind it. Then, when the news came a little later that a plane was crashed into the Pentagon, it was clear the nation was under some kind of attack. This was further confirmed after we heard news that another plane crashed down in a Pennsylvania field with the speculation that it may have been heading toward the White House or Capital in Washington, D.C. What a day!
It’s funny how a day can start out as just another normal day but within minutes it can turn into a day we’ll never forget. When people woke up that Tuesday morning eleven years ago, it was just another day on the calendar. But now we can vividly remember that day by simply referring to it as 9/11. We can all recall how those events suddenly turned a bright and sunny day into a day of utter darkness and despair.
On the news this morning, I heard concerns that many may not be remembering 9/11 as much as each year passes. Evidently, many have scaled back their memorial ceremonies than in previous years, with less dignitaries speaking. And some places are not even having services. Some cite that we have to move on—that while it’s important to remember, life goes on.
Yes, life goes on. But if we forget to remember, then we shortchange ourselves making it harder to go on. We deprive ourselves of memories that not only remind us of our losses but help us to remember our blessings along the way: We remember to be thankful for loved ones lost. We remember never to take life for granted. We remember the sacrifices of many heroes who came to the rescue that day. We remember how important it is to be vigilant in view of those who would like to take our freedoms away. Yes, we must remember not to forget for the sake of our own peace of mind as well as our own future security.
Remembering not to forget, therefore, is essential for all, but particularly for those who have hope in Christ. For even while we remember the bad news, we also remember that when all is said and done, Good News will come. The Good News lies in the fact that God’s Word gives us hope even when there seems to be no hope. There was little hope on 9/11 as people began to panic, fearing what might happen next. Terror, anger, and confusion were setting in: Long gas lines, airplane flights canceled, people flooding the stores to hoard supplies, the whole nation in high alert, and many attending church for the first time in years. Yet, in spite of it all, Christians with hope could cope. But, you may ask, how is this possible?
When we remember not to forget the hope that God gives us, we know that we not only will survive but thrive in due time. The Apostle Paul spoke of a kind of hope that saves us. It has to do with something believers do not merely wish for, but eagerly expect. It’s a hope that we haven’t seen yet, but we know it will come even though we must persevere in the meantime: “For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance,” (Romans 8:24-25).
What is the hope that we want to remember not to forget? The hope is that a day will come when there will be no more terrorism, no more violence, no more war, and no more suffering and death (Isaiah 11:1-10; 35:1-10; Rev. 21:4-8). The Apostle Paul is pointing to the return of Christ and the hope that all who are in their graves will be resurrected to life (see also Daniel 12:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 20:4-6). At Jesus’ return, those in Christ who’ve died will be raised to receive immortality, for this is the “redemption of our body” Paul refers to in Romans 8:23.
So, on days we are reminded of tragic events like the ones that took place on 9/11, we remember not to forget the hope that is God’s Good News—the eager anticipation that believers will see their loved ones again. And it’s the hope that includes the fact that God will judge the world in his righteousness (Acts 17:31), establish peace among all nations (Isaiah 9:6-7), and make the earth new in his time (2 Peter 3:13). As Paul said in his letter to Titus: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13). This is the kind of hope that helps us persevere through the tragedies of this mortal life.
Let us remember not to forget!
Pastor Michael P. Brown