Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 - some personal reflections and pastoral thoughts

I well recall the first time I stood on the roof of the World Trade Center in New York City. It was 1978, I was newly married and serving my vicarage on Long Island. I was also (and still am) not a fan of heights and it as not without its spine tingling moments to stand on the roof, feel the wind, and peer down so very far to the street below. But this was the first of many visits and we took so many folks to the same spot over that year and the almost 13 we spent between the City and Albany in upstate New York.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The thing is about as many lives are lost daily to abortion in the US. This is much harder for me emotionally and as a citizen in a democratic republic because the log of guilt is partly in my eye for abortion. However, I am not responsible for the evil done by those who killed those thousands of people on 9 11 01.