This week, we've remembered the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Maybe you've already heard the tale of John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, those two Port Authority Policemen whose story Oliver Stone made into a movie a few years ago. You see, John and William were the guys rescued after being buried in the rubble for 13 and 21 hours respectively. Today, I want us to think about how that had to feel for those twelve and a half hours before they were found, completely surrounded by death, absolutely trapped and unable to move, buried under the debris of an entire building, floor upon floor, piled up on top of you. There was no way they were making it out of there on their own.
They had to simply hope that someone would do something about their situation, that someone could do something about their situation, which constantly seemed less and less likely. And then, after they realized how hopeless it truly was...then, can you imagine...hearing the voices of those rescuers? ...then seeing the light as those heroes were removing everything that separated you from life, from freedom? It's hard not to get emotional just thinking about that.
But realize this. What the LORD is talking about in Isaiah 56 is something much bigger. It's a rescue even more consequential. He's talking about foreigners - those apart from him - foreign to him, with no natural relationship to him, that are bound to the Lord. As our sin was crushing us. As the wages of all our wrongs pressed down on us and cut off all light and hope and ability to do anything to fix it...as we as a race and as individuals were hopelessly dying in the debris of our world - our rescuer came.
Isaiah records God's message - "My salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed." Well, we've seen the rest of the movie. We've seen our Savior remove that heavy load of sin. We've seen our hero sacrifice his life, willingly entering this destroyed world to die to rescue us. And we, trapped under that weight of our guilt have heard his voice, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We've seen his light, the light of his face and his forgiveness, the light of his word as he tells us that he has removed everything that hindered us. He bore its weight that we might be free.
Rescued like that - now of course we're indebted to our rescuer. We can't help but love him - and like Isaiah writes, "to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him...to keep the Sabbath...to hold fast to his covenant." Look at verse 7. We are the ones he brings to his holy mountain and gives joy in this house of prayer.
And God's not even done yet - he has other foreigners to bring in. That's what verse 8 tells us. He's got even more that he wants to be bound to him forever. Because when we realize the magnitude of what our relationship with God cost God, that's what happens -we're bound forever.
That's what an event that dramatic does. So, September 11th forever changed our lives. And while the devastation of September 11, 2001, is something I pray we never have to experience again, think of all the good God brought from it: the relationships formed, the number of people who turned to him for answers, the unification of a country. Yet, even those amazing results of September 11th are nothing compared to what God has done through the terror and tragedy of his son hanging on that cross. Because of that, we, every last one of us, as different as we are and as foreign as we may be to one another...we are forever bound to the Lord, and to each other. Let's live like it.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.