There is a bit of irony today. Yes, it is Rally Day for numerous churches across the country, as we kick off a new year for Sunday school: young people coming together on a regular basis to get excited about what this God has done and continues to do in their life. There most certainly should be joy with that. And yet we know full well when September 11 is mentioned, not so joyous thoughts and memories creep in, no matter how much we try to avoid it, how much we hope we can move past it.
After all, it’s been fifteen years, and the images are still eerily fresh in our mind, as they should be. However, in those fifteen years the memories do not begin and end with massive destruction, but they include the response of the brave men and women who risked their life by invading the catastrophic rubble. Hopefully in fifteen years those images of staunch heroism and unrelenting courage dominate our recollection of that day as much as any evil that reared its ugly head in a way we never imagined possible.
September 11, 2001, as much as it was the absolute worst day in American history, it was also a rally day of epic proportion. A nation rallied together, and it did so with the foundational example of firefighters, police officers, EMS crews, and scores of others who made absolutely certain that so many of the lives that were lost for hours on end, would still be found. A nation could fight through tears and horror to still celebrate the ones that were found, that could be reunited with their families.
Of course that didn’t ultimately take away the undeniable traumatic reality of September 11, when terror took on a new meaning in our culture. An epidemic of fear overtook us in a way that December 7, 1941 didn’t even come close, or the battle at Gettysburg, or anything else in our nation’s history. And the only way we could somehow manage that most awful pain was with each other. We had no choice as a nation but to rally around each other: to be beside each other during those vulnerable moments, to hear the cries, to eat together, to play together, to get back to work in restoring our communities and the nation together. There is no better day than September 11 to be Rally Day!
That’s not to overlook the importance of Sunday school, because those educational opportunities are not simply about memorizing Bible passages, but helping young people, and people of all ages for that matter, make the connection to see where God still shows up thousands of years after the last Scripture passage was composed. God raises up the church time and time again to be the place and the people to point to the Risen Christ alive and well, including in public servants invading the darkness of death. We are a church that rallies around each other and our surrounding communities, and it most certainly does not stop today. It is just beginning.
Too many people still feel lost, separated from the rest of the world, just like the one lost sheep in the Gospel this morning. They are children who feel unappreciated by not having school supplies. They are flood victims in Louisiana who wonder if they will ever have a place to call home again. They are people who go hungry even in our local communities, many of whom are not looking for pity, but simply wonder if there are others who truly care enough to help, as if they matter just as much as the rest of the flock.
And yet there’s one part of the Gospel we take for granted. The parable isn’t entirely true about Jesus, after all. Jesus is always with every sheep, every child of God. Our Good Shepherd never loses us, never allows us to leave His love. There is absolutely nothing in all creation that can separate us from Him. But that doesn’t mean there are not children of God who feel lost, who feel unloved, who feel as if they’re not good enough to be part of any community of any worth. That’s where the church comes in. We rally together around them. For the church every day is rally day!
Because what happened on the cross was God rallying around the world with a love that could not be stopped by any level of apathy or hatred or evil. God rallied around us with a grace that has never been silenced ever since, and it continues through the church with baptism and Communion, as well as simple offerings of school supplies and money for disaster response and collections for food pantries. God never had it in mind that any sheep should ever be separated from a flock of support and care. No sheep, no child of God whatsoever, should ever go through this life alone, not even in the darkness of death. And so the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit continues to rally together for us and for all of God’s children. Today is just a new beginning for a church to rally together through Jesus Christ our Lord. And for that sacred honor to be part of that ministry, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon