Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts; there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. (Psalm 53:1-2)
Thinking About September 11... and Today
Four days from today is the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. I was just driving back to church a few minutes ago and heard an interview on NPR of a survivor who was working on one of the upper floors of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on that day. He felt a force or a hand - though “no one was there” - guiding him to go down Stairwell A instead of Stairwell C. He helped rescue and lead out one other person, and not too long after they made it out to the street, the tower collapsed.
On September 16, 2001, most churches and synagogues had the highest attendance that they have had for many Sundays, before or since. People were seeking God - a connection with God. It was true also at St. Ambrose, with our attendance going up by 40 on that Sunday, and back down to the regular attendance on September 23. I had been here for about six weeks, and on September 12 we held a prayer vigil for the victims of the terrorist attacks... and for the state of the world.
Those who hijacked the various planes that day and used them as weapons committed abominable acts (verse 1, above). And... God was present that day, as God always is. The Force that directed this gentleman to go to the opposite stairwell of the one he intended to go down... the Force that propelled the brave first responders into the chaos... the Force that propelled members and staff of Trinity Church - and many other churches - to offer love and food and care for the next number of weeks... that Force was God.
The man interviewed today on NPR answered a final question by saying something like this: “I have learned not to try to answer unanswerable questions from the past. I have learned that you cannot predict what will happen in the future. There is really only today. Today is precious. How can I make the most of today? How can I enjoy today?”
This sounds a lot like the beginning of today’s Psalm. There are those still - in 2016 - who are bent on committing abominable acts. But there is yet a deeper truth: God is present in our world, looking down from heaven - or “up” from within us - to see if any of us are wise and seeking after God, on THIS day.
We always have a choice... to either go around in a mostly-out-of-it stupor, acting as if there is no God among us, OR to be actively looking for God... seeking after God.
Will we seek and find God in that invisible hand or inaudible voice that directs us in one direction, and not the other?
Will we seek and find God in the beauty of creation that is all around us?
Will we seek and find God as the ultimate source of all beautiful art, beautiful writing, and beautiful music?
Will we seek and find God in the people around us who are committing loving, selfless acts?
Will we seek and find God in the silence - after we get up, as we pray before a meal or right before we have a challenging conversation, or before we go to bed?
Will we seek and find God in the miraculous things that are given to us at just the perfect moment, whether that be a good book, a smile, an unexpected check arriving in the mail, or a person reaching out to contact us at just the moment that we needed that particular contact?
Yes, God is looking around to see if any of us are wise, if any of us are seeking the One who is the ultimate source of love, power, grace, and healing - in this present moment.