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“Return to normal . . . “

(After the terrorist attacks on September 11, some questioned whether the annual nation-wide CLC Teachers’ Conference should go on as planned. Many teachers had purchased plane tickets for the October 7-9 conference. Yet some sentiment was expressed for changing or canceling the conference. One teacher shared the following thoughts with his colleagues via e-mail. The spiritual perspectives given are, we feel, worthy of a wider audience. The conference was held as scheduled. — The Editor)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

To be a called worker means to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all aspects of our life. It means to live a God-pleasing life out of love for our precious Savior, Jesus, who laid down His life to pay for our sins. One aspect of this is to set a good example to our Christian brethren in our individual congregations, to set a good example to all Christians both in the CLC and around the world–but also to the unbelieving world.

The Lord says in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” One way to be a good example to all Christians and to the unbelieving world is to do our duty as good citizens in this country.

President Bush has called for American life to return to normal. He says that we should go about our business as normal and feel as safe and secure as before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. We should not forget the tragedy of that day, but we should not shrink back in fear of carrying on our daily tasks. I believe that we would not be doing our duty as American citizens if we did not return to our lives as normal. One way in which we would not be returning to our lives as normal would be to cancel the CLC Teachers’ Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

If we did cancel the conference, what example would we be setting for our fellow Christians? What example would we be setting for the unbelieving world? If someone were to ask me, “Why didn’t you go to your Teachers’ Conference this year?”, it would be hard for me to make them believe it was anything other than that we were fearful for our safety.

Yes, safety should be a concern, but the events of September 11, 2001 could have happened twenty years ago. It could have happened ten years ago (it did in the bombing of the World Trade Centers in 1993). It could happen tomorrow. It could also happen between October 6-11.

We do not know when our lives are going to be changed by such an event. It is, however, not our place to worry about such things. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt. 6:33-34).

When Moses was ready to die, he sent words out to all of Israel. He said that he was unable to lead them, and he would not cross the Jordan. This was God’s command. Joshua, however, was to lead them into the Promised Land and take possession of it. Moses spoke these words to God’s chosen people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:5).

What wonderful and magnificent words to strengthen us in time of uncertainty and doubt. God says He will never leave us or forsake us. God will be with us if we travel to Phoenix, Arizona. God will watch over us. If it is His will that another incident occurs like that of September 11, 2001, so be it. His will be done. I think we would be doing a disservice to ourselves, the members of Holy Cross, and the CLC if we did cancel Teachers’ Conference.

The spiritual benefits of the conference are vast and far-reaching– not only for the teachers, but also for the members of Holy Cross as well. Who knows what mission opportunity the Lord might present before each one of us as we wait for hours at an airport? What chance to witness to the world might we miss by canceling the conference? What better opportunity do we have to set good examples to the world by telling fellow passengers at the airport of how great and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is? We can witness to them by the fact that we are traveling such great distances despite current events in our nation. The opportunities that we might have are endless. If we cancel the conference, there might be none.

The apostle Paul had a tremendous attitude that we all should strive for. He was in chains in prison, and he bore witness to Christ. In his seemingly miserable state, he saw the opportunity to witness to everyone he met about the perfect life, death, and resurrection of his Savior, Jesus Christ. No matter what situation we may find ourselves in–at home because Teachers’ Conference was canceled, or at an airport waiting for hours on end–we should take the opportunity to serve the Lord by witnessing to all that we come in contact with. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of being a called servant of the Lord?

I pray the Lord be with all of you, and that He bless your work in His kingdom as you teach Christ’s little lambs and all people the message of salvation.

Yours in Christ,

/s/ Neil Bernthal

Winter Haven, Florida


Heavenly Father, we cannot fathom the depth of meaning this crisis has for us now. We confess that as a people we have deserved to be visited with a heavy hand. We have worshiped too many gods. We have failed to honor Your name. We have turned deaf ears to Your Word. We have not upheld order and equity among men. We have been unchaste and impure.

Yet we pray You to hear our prayer for the sake of Your Son, our Lord. Have compassion and mercy. Set aside our guilt and give us new life through the merits of Your Son. Bring relief to all who suffer this day. Ease the anxieties of those who are distressed. Send help to those who are distraught. Release us from this fiery trial, that we may be free to give You thanks and glory for deliverance from the day of trouble. Amen.