I truly, deeply, do not want to be disrespectful of anyone for whom 9/11 holds particular personal significance by what I am about to say. Also, I have often emphasized to anyone who seeks to find any kind of miniscule connection to the Twin Towers that the attack of that day was not merely on New Yorkers but on all of us. We do not need a personal connection with individuals who were harmed to have been harmed ourselves by virtue of our citizenship. Lastly, I understand this is profound pain for many, life defining for no small number and world changing for nearly everyone.
[and here’s the part that I’m sure will tick someone off]
Except that it isn’t the defining moment of the church. It is not the centerpiece of our faith in this country (or anywhere else), at least I am persuaded to believe it ought not be, and I believe we make a mistake when we focus too much on remembrance in our worship services this upcoming week.
Perhaps it is the defiance in me but I do not want to preach about September 11th. We will have a tolling of bells before worship–ten times for the ten years. We have a lovely piece of music with choir and handbells and I believe there is also to be a meditative prelude chosen specially for the day. Certainly, this will be in our prayers of the people and I have denied the foolish “moment of silence” and replaced it with a “moment of silent PRAYER” since that is what we are doing and we’re in the church and we ought to actually pray and not just have a moment of silence.
But that is enough.
I feel tremendous pressure to preach about the twin towers, downed flights,the mayhem of the days and weeks that followed and I do not want to. This Sunday’s worship is not a funeral. It isn’t even a Celebration of Life–one of those phrases we use to more properly frame the liturgy surrounding death. It is a liturgy of worship of Jesus Christ.
Shall we spend our time gazing at the darkness of that day and the taint of it on all those that followed? Shall we devote time, energy and heart space to indulging the shadowy evil of violence and terror’s cackling victory? Do not misunderstand me; I do not speak here of evil people but of Violence and Terror themselves. Fear.
Our faith is not founded in fear of evil but in worship of God. We have not been taught to “fear and love the Lord” (Luther’s Small Catechism) because of the terror of evil but because of God’s victory over evil and death forever.
It is good and right to remember this day, to acknowledge the pain, loss and hurt. Even the continuing pieces of these things. But above all that, far above all that, we must point to the one who wipes away all the tears, the one who heals all things, the one who has swallowed up death forever. The one who has made all things new. It is my hope that, on Sunday morning when I have the privileged to once again step into the pulpit and speak to the people of God, I will be able to point not to remnants of pain but to the one who heals.