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Victoria service remembers 9/11, stresses forgiveness

Sept. 11, 2011 at 4:11 a.m.

The Rev. Jarrell Sharp sings with his congregation and guests during the special 9/11 remembrance service Sunday at First United Methodist Church. The church invited members of the Victoria community from the Islamic Center, Temple B'Nai Israel, the Buddhist community and the Hindu community. They also invited first responders from the American Red Cross, Victoria Police Department, Victoria Fire Department and Victoria County Sheriff's Department. Sharp's sermon spoke of love, peace and forgiveness.

Victoria Police Department Lt. Ryan Keller remembers where he was 10 years ago when he heard the news of Sept. 11.

An 18-year-old senior at Cuero High School then, Keller was approached by a friend on the way to second-period journalism class, asking if he'd heard of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

"I thought it was a Cessna at first," he said. "When I heard what happened though, it was pretty much unbelievable."

Today, Keller serves the community in uniform, as many of the uniformed officers and fire officials served at ground zero, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania the day of the attacks.

In uniform Sunday, Keller joined fellow police officers, fire officials and an interfaith congregation of about 200 at First United Methodist Church in Victoria to mark the 10th anniversary of the worst foreign attacks on U.S. soil.

"It's important to remember all the civil servants who were first responders to the scene and sacrificed their lives that day," Keller said. "We're forced to make decisions like that every day, to make split decisions to send you and your crew to a scene that could potentially sacrifice lives for someone we've never met."

First United's anniversary ceremony was led by senior pastor, the Rev. Jarrell Sharp, and included live choral performances from the sanctuary choir and Bible readings from the books of Exodus, Romans and Matthew.

"The question is, how can we move forward? The question is, what is a Christian posture to these tragedies?" Sharp asked the congregation.

Citing Matthew 18:21-35, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,'" Sharp emphasized the need to forgive individuals and circumstances without limitations.

"Yes, it's hard, but think of what God has forgiven you for, simply because you ask," Sharp said. "Before our holy God, there are no degrees of sin. Which does not mean, by the way, to forget. Forgiveness is hard, but it's the Jesus way."

Sharp implored the congregation to remember that God does not want his followers to see the world in "us and them" categories, but as one people.

Agreeing with Sharp, Victoria Islamic Center Imam Osama Hassan, who attended the service with Islamic Center President Dr. Shahid Hashmi, said the service was important because it encourages unity.

"Definitely, it's important because we are like brothers and sisters in this society, and we have to support each other," Hassan said.

Following the service, Sharp invited attendees to have lunch at the church and enjoy an afternoon of interfaith, intercultural fellowship.

"Let us break bread together," he said.



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