As a way of remembering Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I want to recall part of the introduction to my sermon on the following Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001. “There is not any of us that has not been affected this past week by the terrible atrocity committed against our nation. Like you, over and over I have watched the unthinkable horror of it all. Tears have welled up in my eyes as I have watched hijacked planes hit their targets, seen pictures of victims, listened to the agony of the bereaved, watched those determined rescue workers and seen the country rally together in resolve. Another emotion that has kept creeping in is anger. How could anybody do something like this? There is no cause big enough to be so heartless and careless with the sacred value of human life.
“Yet, still another emotion that has enveloped me is that of gratitude. I have been so grateful to see all those ‘Good Samaritans’ offering their help to their neighbors. This is the other side of humanity-the Godly side.” I went on that Sunday, September 16, 2001 to preach a message on hope. The Apostle Paul said, “We are saved by hope” (Romans 8:24). That was true then, and that is true today. The one truth that kept Paul alive was the fact that the human situation is not a hopeless situation. To be sure, Paul was aware of humankind’s sin. He experienced it, and he saw it. But, thank goodness, Paul also saw God’s redeeming power, and because of that power he had hope.
“In Thomas Shapecott’s novel, ‘Hotel Bellevue,’ the central character, as a child, asks his grandmother, ‘When you die, what will you give me?’ She answers, ‘Sole heir of my hopes.’ Since hope has the power to make us alive and to save, to make us courageous and sensitive, I want us to focus on it in this writing. The question is, in spite of all the happenings then and now, ‘How can we live a hopeful life?’
“First, we can live a hopeful life by identifying our hopelessness! Over time, we have drifted away from the spiritual meanings of great words. As the late Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton, noted minister, reminded us, ‘We have tended to extract the moral content out of them. Consequently, hope, like freedom and love, has become a surface, secular superficial sort of thing. Hope has come to mean simply, ‘look on the bright side.’ The problem is, all sides are not so bright.
“Second, we can live a hopeful life by reclaiming the true nature of hope. The one note that consistently sounds throughout the scripture like a beautiful refrain is that God abides faithful and is the source of our hope. Writing in his book ‘Still We Can Hope,’ minister Joseph R. Sizoo says that ‘In time of crisis, when the resources of men and women shrivel, the resources God unfold. Storms are affairs of the earth. But the rainbow is an affair of heaven.’
“Third, we can live a hopeful life by refusing to become any kind of hostage! The other night as I was listening to reports of the actions of the Taliban and the multiple shootings in our state and nation, I began to think about life within the United States. I began to think how easy it would be to listen to all these negative reports and become so fearful and paranoid that we would be afraid to go anywhere or do anything-become hostages in our own land. Now, there is no question we are living in a different day in the United States. We have learned and are learning from terrible crimes that we are vulnerable. And it all requires increased vigilance, security and caution. But, as people of faith, we must not allow these militant criminals or any other groups to hold us hostage from the freedoms we hold so dear-freedoms, that others have given their lives for so that those freedoms could be passed on to us. And freedoms that we must pass on to future generations.
“Fourth, we can live a hopeful life when we recognize the power of hope! English painter, G.F. Watt’s painted a picture entitled ‘Hope.’ It pictures a poor woman against the world. Her eyes are bandaged so that she cannot see ahead. In her hands is a harp, but all the strings are broken save one. Those broken strings represent her shattered expectation, her bitter disappointments. That one last unbroken string is the string of hope. She strikes that string and a glorious melody floats out over her world. It fills her dark skies with stars. In this picture, the artist painted an immortal truth! Even when all else is gone, we can still have hope. And no one is ever defeated as long as hope remains.”