Monday, September 12, 2011

"Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good."

“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”
I think we can remember a time when someone harmed us.
When someone intentionally or unintentionally did us wrong.
Today is a good day to think about how we feel when others do harm to us.
Ten years ago on a crisp, beautiful September morning, 12 terrorist hell bent on destruction and death, filled with hate, flew plains into the world trade center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In all they killed over 3,000 people.
They inflicted intentional pain upon thousands more.
Family members, co-workers, friends, churches all were affected that day.
Not to mention our country and our sense of whom we were in the world.
President Bush was right to talk about what happened in the starkest language possible.
Calling what the terrorist did as evil.

But ten years from the day as we think back, as we remember what it all means to us and our country, can we say that what the terrorist intended for evil, God intended for good?
What can we say about ourselves as a people, our country, and our lives?

There are some bad things that happened because of 9/11.
Our government allowed people to be tortured to obtain information, we started two wars one of which was unnecessary, and we became more distrustful of our Muslim neighbors.
We can’t say that everything is good.
But we can also say that lots of good happened after 9/11.
That day and the weeks following we had an incredible sense of unity.
We came together as a country.
We came to see that all of us are of one humanity people died from 90 different countries.
We started to question the wisdom of religious extremism.
We started new interfaith dialogues in an attempt to understand.
People started new groups such as the Women Transcending Boundaries which is a group of woman who gather for service and understanding to stop discrimination.
There are other things that have happened since that day.
Others ways that people grew in understanding and love.
Like Cecelia Kuath who this year went on a cross country bike trip to honor her father, and other who died on September 11th, and raise money for World Bicycle Relief.
Or Marie Rose Abad whose husband built 50 new homes in the Philippines to honor his wife.
"It's like a new life sprang from the death of Marie Rose and so many others." said villager Nancy Waminal.
There are so many good things I couldn’t possibly tell all the stories in one sermon.

When Joseph says to his brothers that what they intended for evil God intended for good he was not saying that everything was going to be great forever more.
He was seeing in the story of his life, and the life of his family a larger narrative at work.
I wonder if we too are able to step back from intended evil to see something greater at work.
Are we able to forgive people and move on because even though they harmed us we can still see God at work?

I am wondering in our lives if we are able to see as clearly as Joseph did.
Are we able to forgive and move on with our lives seeing even in the things that harm us God’s work?
I want to be clear.
I am not suggesting that God intentionally had fanatical terrorist kill thousands of people so we could learn a lesson about our humanity.
The people who committed that act did it intentionally of their own free will.
They choose that path for themselves.
I am suggesting that as people of faith we be able to step back and see greater forces at work then evil.
See God at work in all things.
See the good that grows out of even the worse things that happen to us in our lives.

Let us also be clear that the forgiveness and wonderful words that Joseph speaks to his brothers only come after a long time.
This is the end of Joseph’s life and his forgiveness and his reconciliation has been many years in the making.
For us too forgiveness is never an easy solution.
It takes years to work out our pain and hurt.
It takes years to overcome something like 9/11 and for some the affects still linger, and for them it might take even more years.
But forgiveness is a way forward.
As one of the family members who lost someone on 9/11 said, “Deep down I have to forgive and move on. I am just not ready.”
The time to be ready will come.

This is the view of faith that we see all things through the lens of a God who wants good for us and our lives.
It is why Sunday school is so important
Sunday school helps children to know God and know him intimately.
And when evil happens they can deal with it.

Sasha Vaccoroo
was in kindergarden when he saw the planes hit the towers.
He said of that day, “Before, I thought the world was perfect and everyone was nice,” he said. “It’s when I stopped believing in God.”
I hope that our children learn that the world is not perfect, and it is not always nice.
I hope that they learn there are parts of the human heart that do evil.
But that we as people of faith don’t have to be afraid of it.
We can see through evil intention of people to the greater intention of God.
I hope that in Sunday school our kids learn how to forgive.
I don’t think that our kids need Sunday school to become better people, you as parents teach them that every day.
But in Sunday school we learn about God’s love and forgiveness, because forgiveness is often the healing balm of our lives.
Without it we cannot move forward.

And we all need to forgive someone for something or maybe multiple things.
This is why Jesus tells us to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times because it will take lots of forgiveness to get us through life.
Our parents maybe didn’t love us enough, or maybe they loved us too much.
Our siblings didn’t treat us right and tried to undermine us.
Our boss is a jerk.
Maybe we were picked on as a kid.
Whatever the pain is that we carry around the only way forward is through forgiveness.
That of course takes time; it is not an easy answer but a faithful answer.

I think it would help us a lot in our lives if we are able to step back and see the greater intention.
If we could let go of what others do to hold us back to see God working to bring us to where we need to be.

I think if we could have that perspective about 9/11 we could see God at work even amongst the evil.
said about 9/11 “Human history is full of tragedy, and within these tragedies there is room for growth. There is no growth in human beings without struggle. I’m convinced of that.”
Joseph grew through his life struggles.
He grew from a self righteous brat to a man of forgiveness and humility.
He was able to grow to the point where he could even see God at work in what his brothers did to him.
He grew to the point where he could forgive them.
I am hoping we too are able to grow to the point where we see God at work even in the sin that happens to us.
I am hoping that we are always able to forgive, not just seven time, but seventy-seven times.

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