Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things on September 11

I started today--September 11, 2009--with full intentions of listening to my Ipod all day and ignoring the media coverage of commemoration, victims' families, retrospectives, etc. Then I got a phone call from a friend from NY letting me know one of the kids in my youth group there was reading the names of those who died at the World Trade Center. One of the names he read was his father's. I am very proud of him for doing so, but it was surreal to watch him stand at the podium via streaming video over the Internet.

It continues to be very strange for me to be here in Missouri instead of Long Island when September 11 rolls around. As I write this,they are preparing for yet another memorial service in the town park as they have done there each year since the terrorist attacks.

Without thinking, I flipped on the car radio this morning and heard a bit of coverage before turning it off again. That was enough to make me despair yet again for the state of our nation and world. Not only is there the great tragedy of what happened eight years ago to consider, but there is also the great tragedy of all that has gone on since then to think about. Instead of sacrifice, we were asked to shop. Instead of re-thinking our nation's policies that support despots and dictators we carried out a preemptive war. Instead of working for justice and reconciliation in the world we sought revenge. It is enough to make this liberal Christian believe in the fallen state of humanity and our world along with a God that has run out of patience with our pursuit of self-destruction.

On this day, I think about the cross. I've never been a big fan of atonement in its traditional depictions--i.e. Christ bearing the punishment due a sinful humanity in order to appease an angry God. But today, I've been thinking about the cross somehow being about all of the self-centered, revenge-oriented violence that we humans are capable of--perhaps on the cross all of our futile and violent scrabbling for control was shown for the pointless waste it really is. The empty tomb demonstrates that the worst this world can do is not enough to stop the grace of God. I guess I will fall back on faith, but today my faith feels in short supply.

I did receive some hope today watching the broadcast of the commemoration at Ground Zero in Manhattan. From all places, it came from Mayer Michael Bloomburg. Strangely, gracefully he read from Wendell Berry from his poem "The Peace of Wild Things". I leave it for you in hope that it can inspire you as it inspires me:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Grace and Peace,


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