From Chaos To Calm

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					―From Chaos To Calm‖
ACU Opening Chapel August 26, 2002

By Dr. Prentice A. Meador
Sr. Minister Prestoncrest Church of Christ - Dallas

In the beginning, there were no words. Only chaos. September 11 — forever etched in your memory. Our President calls it ―evil in the extreme.‖

Jets crashed, towers tumbled, thousands died, rescue workers became heroes, flames consumed 35 million square feet of New York City. “Minute by minute, fear envelopes the country.” (USA Today). Our language changed. Words like ―jihad,” “anthrax,” Ground Zero,” “Let’s roll!” and “heroes” took on new meanings. Not only did towers crumble, but also our illusion that we are safe from attack.

When the towers tumbled, focus shifted from budget talks to blood drives; from fun to funerals. We had been shielded from death, then it was all we talked about.

When chaos reigned, we wept for those we never knew; prayed for people regardless of their religion; gave blood and money to people we would never see. We learned more about radical Islam. We re-learned what Professor Richard Weaver

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(University of Chicago) taught us in 1948: “Ideas do have consequences.” One moment, our leaders argued over using God’s name. The next moment, they stood on the Capitol steps, singing ―God Bless America.‖ Ninety percent of Americans prayed. Churches overflowed. Atheists were hard to find. Flags flew from old pickup trucks and stately mansions.

Then just a few months later, at the dawn of an Easter Sunday morning, our own personal towers crumbled. Five Nigerian students from ACU were on their last leg of an overnight drive from Houston back to Abilene. Suddenly, the quiet morning was interrupted by the sickening crash of their car on I-20. Life is fragile. Suddenly, chaos reigned again.

Any time our towers crash, we ask critical questions:  Where was God in all of this?  How could people hate us so much?  How should we respond?

My own answers to these questions are found in the stories of ACU’s alumni -- stories which reveal what our university stands for and what our alumni believe. Aristotle says the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.

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So what does ACU cause its students to like? Listen to the voices of those who used to be here. I. ACU’S ALUMNI SAY THAT WHEN THE TOWERS TUMBLE, FREEDOM IS REBORN. Kasey Pipes (’95), White House staff: “Americans have always been willing to pay the price for freedom. We have always understood that doing what is right often means doing what is hard. And we have always recognized that we must meet the challenges of today to preserve a better tomorrow. This was true for the heroes of Valley Forge, of Gettysburg, of the Civil Rights movement, and of the men who went to the moon…Being an American is never easy, but it is always worth it.”

The United States was more a fragile hope when George Washington, in his First Inaugural, 1789, asserted: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the Republican model of government…are entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

When the colonies held the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin carefully studied George Washington’s chair. Washington was the chairman of the Convention. When Franklin looked at Washington’s chair he saw the sun just at the edge of the horizon. Franklin said, “I’ve

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been trying to decide if the sun is setting, or if the sun is rising. I’ve decided that the sun is rising.” Tom Paine’s, The Rights of Man (1791), reminds us that the best form of government, in the end, is self-government. So, freedom is personal — ask Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, or Mike Spann, Todd Beamer, firefighters. It is not a spectator sport. As George Santayana reminded us, “A man’s feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world”. ACU will help you plant yourself so that you may look at the world through eyes of freedom. So should we take ―God‖ out of the Pledge? Ask the Russians! They took God out of their country for 70 years. Look at the results – tyranny, economic depression, lack of human dignity. Or ask those brave men and four women who died at Normandy. Barbara and I spent Memorial Day at the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. You are almost overwhelmed by the nearly 10,000 buried beneath the white crosses. As I walked among the crosses, I looked at the names of those young people your age: William Clark, TN; Foster Nickerson, VA; Fred Mueller, IA; Howard Boens, NJ; Robert Powers, OK-- all died on June 6, 1944. At the head of the cemetery is a 22 foot bronze statue, ―The Spirit of American Youth Rising From the Waves.‖ The youth is reaching to the

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heavens and inscribed at the base are the words: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” ACU is a Christian intellectual community which sees freedom as the best climate in which to glorify God.

What else does ACU stand for? Listen to the voices of those who once sat here as students. II. ACU’S ALUMNI SAY THAT WHEN THE TOWERS TUMBLE, FAITH IS REBORN. As Soren Kierkegaard said, ―If a person does not become what he understands, he does not really understand it.” Listen to Carol Riordan (’76), married to Tim, a lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department: “Satan visited the earth September 11, 2001, but God responded in His love and compassion through the thousands who have come to help… May we all be lights in this dark world.” Again listen to Luise Percoco (’88), who lives on Long Island, New York: “I can’t help but think of a song we often used to sing in chapel which brings so much comfort to me at this time: I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. So shall I be safe from my enemies.

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The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock, And let the God of my salvation be exalted!”

I love this university because ACU believes the story. The story is 2000 years old. It began in chaos, terror and death on Friday at 9:00 a.m. in Jerusalem. After Jerusalem, the Son of God was dead. Everything had changed. Mary, Mary Magdalene, Salome walked down the road to the cemetery. Like most in grief, they said nothing. “How will we remove the huge stone?” They were alarmed to find that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. The angel said, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is risen. But go and tell his disciples.” They ran away in wonder. What if chaos is not the end? What if calm is on the other side of the stone? Then God is in control. Only He can bring calm from chaos!

There really is good news of great joy. Faith in God is woven into the fabric of ACU’s identity – its professors and students. We aren’t helpless pawns when chaos rises up to defeat us; when towers tumble; when wrecks take our friends. We are linked to God, who brings calm to chaos. How for more than ninety years ACU answers—by getting closer to Jesus. You see, faith is personal too. Some of you come from nations that are at war with each other. You see, global peace begins in your

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heart. World peace starts with you. These tragedies may be beyond your experience; they are not beyond your faith. So C.S. Lewis concludes, ―Either Jesus was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else, He was and is, precisely what He said.‖ (The Problem of Pain)

I know a Russian from Volgograd who holds a PhD and a MD and was once a member of the KGB. During the Cold War, he made plans on how to kill Americans. At the same time an American in the US Air Force was stationed at Colorado Springs where he worked to kill Russians in the same Cold War. Then Christ called each of them; they came to Texas where they met, studied and today they are brothers in Christ. They learned to live by faith. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen” (II Corinthians 4:18). Earth reminds me of when Winston Churchill lost his election to Clement Atlee. The Queen sent for Sir Winston. “Sir Winston, what do you think of our new Prime Minister?” Churchill said, “Your Majesty, there’s a lot less there than meets the eye.”

I have a plaque that sits by my computer, and I see it several times a day. This is what it says, “Good morning! This is God. Today, I will be handling all your problems. I won’t be needing your help. Have a nice day!”

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“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all,” writes David.  To a world in chaos, ACU cries out, ―Our God reigns!‖  When the towers fall, Our God Reigns.  When students die, Our God Reigns.  When disaster comes, Our God Reigns.  You will make a real difference in this world because you believe Our God Reigns.  You are extraordinary. You may feel like you don’t count. But God made no ordinary people. You did not come up from the undercurrents of the ocean, but down from the heart of God. You have the opportunity to believe Our God Reigns.

You have the freedom to have faith! You have the freedom to believe in the spiritual, to see beyond what meets the eye. It was this kind of education Dr. T.R. Glover had in mind when he said of Marcus Aurelius, “He does not believe enough to be great!” Believe in principles enough to be great! Believe in

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Jesus and commit yourself to Him. Believe in goals that are good enough, in causes that are inclusive enough.

And when you leave and join the long purple line of 84,000 alumni, go do extraordinary things—feed the hungry, care for homeless, mend relationships, visit prisoners, heal the sick. Stop the wars. Stay in His Word. Be faithful to His Church. Pass your passion for your freedom and faith to your children. ―Change the World!‖

When the renown French Marshall Lyautey retired from the military he enjoyed gardening. At his chateau, he instructed his gardener to plant a particular tree. The gardener objected, “Sir, this tree will take at least 100 years to reach maturity.” “In that case, there’s no time to lose. Plant it today!”

The glory of your life is that you can attach yourself to timeless values at ACU, to meanings that endure forever. But our world is at war. There’s no time to lose. Plant it today!

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