Sunday, September 11, 2011
9-11 - some personal reflections and pastoral thoughts
Because I have not been back since September 11, 2001, a part of me finds it hard to believe that the structures are not still standing there, icons upon the skyline of America’s first and greatest metropolis. But, of course, they are gone. And all of America has been transformed in the wake of the terrorist attacks that continue to mar our hearts and history.
It is odd to think that the World Trade Center would enjoy such a hallowed status among us. The buildings were considered architectural flops and were the subject of great debate when they were constructed. They were never filled to occupancy and many governmental agencies found a cheap home in its many floors and square feet of office space. But in an instant that was forgotten and now their memory is burned into our minds and hearts along with the nearly 3,000 people who died there, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA. Once we felt somewhat insulated against the violence and threat of terrorism that plagued other great cities of the world.
But no more. Our nation remains ever vigilant of the memory of this worst terrorist attack on our home soil. We will never forget – but not because we do not want to forget. Violence and upheaval in the world continue to remind us of the painful memories we wish we could forget. Everyone who flies walks the steps of remembrance as you make your way in the que toward the gate. Shoes off, electronics taken out for inspection, carry on luggage opened, liquids tossed away, we come prepared to be groped or scoped all in the name of safety and security. It stands as a painful reminder of how a moment can turn a seemingly carefree life into one filled with real fears and insecurities. No one has paid the price more than the families of the many victims but all children in America have had this one single day shape their whole lives and future.
Now those not yet born when this attack occurred are celebrating their tenth birthdays. Into the pain of this memory, we come as a people to gather around the Word that speaks comfort to our hearts grieving the loss of innocence and that speaks hope to our fears and worries born of destruction that we watched on TV, transfixed by its brutality and unbelieving of its reality. Into our insecurity comes the promise of God that refuses to bow before the angry will of the terrorist or the power of fear.
Where do you go for healing? Where do you turn for consolation and peace? The Psalmist is right: you cannot trust in earthly rulers or earthly kingdoms. Our flesh and blood cannot protect us – only the flesh and blood of the God who became incarnate of the Virgin Mary can offer us hope and comfort. He entered our world to live with us amid our fears and He stretched out His arms in suffering that all who suffer might find redemption and relief from their pain in His death and resurrection.
You and I face many tragedies in our lives and we face many troubles. In the midst of them all we turn to the only One who can speak to them and who can overcome their power to steal our joy and peace. That One is Jesus Christ. He came for just this moment and for just this need. When we are our most powerless, His power is greatest. In our weakness is His strength, and in our emptiness is His full and sufficient grace.
A building is underway to stand on the hallowed ground at the corner of Liberty and Church Streets. It is not a replacement for the World Trade Center but the symbol of our renewal and the triumph of our freedom as a nation. We will remember but we will not be held captive by that memory nor by its fears.
God does not give us reward for our faithfulness as if our loss can be made up or replaced by something else. We remember each and every wound and yet, in Christ, we are not held captive by our most painful memories nor by our worst sins. Our Lord speaks grace to our wounds and grace to our sins and the result is peace – perfect peace in an imperfect world.
As we remember 9-11 on its tenth anniversary, we will look at this terrible event through the lens of God’s mercy and we will rejoice in His steadfast love that redeems us and our worst moments, not by giving us back the past but by providing for a full and eternal future. I urge you to pray this month for the families whose loss still wounds their lives, for the leaders of our nation in this time of senseless violence and threat, for the perfect peace of Jesus as the consolation and hope of all who stand in need, for an end to this violence among nations and peoples, and for reign of responsible freedom in which we can be a good neighbor to one another in Jesus’ name.