Friday, September 9, 2011

What I will be preaching about on 9-11-11

I was one of a number of clergy asked by our local religion reporter what I would be preaching on 9-11. Here’s what I gave her:

I began work at a church in a Wall Street bedroom community on Long Island two weeks after September 11, 2001. In the pews each week sat women and children whose husbands and fathers had died in the World Trade Center. Others sat nearby who had made it out alive. The small town in which our church sat included over 60 people who had perished that day. Everyone knew someone well who had died on 9-11. As I came to love these people, I also came to understand the desire by many for revenge. I too wanted to bomb the hell out of those who had hurt us so badly.

Yet in the recesses of my soul, I also remembered the command of Jesus to “love your enemies” and the teaching of the Apostle Paul, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Despite my desire for revenge, I heard the difficult call of Jesus to choose the path of sacrificial love. Yet, that call was largely ignored by our nation. In the aftermath of our nation’s trauma, I believe we saw the best and the worst of our nation’s soul. We saw the best in the sacrificial work of rescuers and first responders along with the desire of many to serve a greater good by enlisting in the military. Yet, we also saw the worst in our collective howls for revenge, decisions to go to war based upon falsehoods, acts of xenophobia and intolerance, and our inability to reflect as a people upon what kind of world do we truly wish for our children.

Over the past ten years we have chosen the path of war rather than peace. We have asked the few in our military to suffer and die in our name while the vast majority of us have refused to be inconvenienced in the slightest. Unlike earlier generations who collectively sacrificed in a time of war, we have chosen wars we can ignore and refused even to pay the bill for trillions of dollars spent on the wars. We have used the deaths of our people who died on 9-11 as an excuse to visit death upon thousands of noncombatants whom we viewed as collateral damage in our “war on terror.” We have not asked the difficult questions of what the seeds of our violence will produce for generations to come. We missed the call of Jesus to make a different, better world and chose instead to continue the cycle of violence that claims “an eye for an eye.”

As we approach the ten year anniversary of 9-11, Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem echoes to us once again, “If you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

Grace and Peace,


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