06
Sep
16

preaching 911

sadness-image

The year 2011 was the last time September 11 fell on a Sunday. First, perhaps because it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and second, perhaps because it was my first year in a new church, I felt compelled to preach about the events of September 11, 2001.

According to my files here, it was a message of hope. We concluded the service by passing out of some of those rubber bracelets that had the words “CHOOSE HOPE” embossed on them. Furthering the HOPE theme, the bracelets were green… the color of life and growth.

But I have to tell you; as we approach another September 11 Sunday this year, I confess I do not feel driven, inspired, compelled, or called to preach about the terror attacks of 9/11/01.

I wonder why not?

There is no danger that I will ever forget what happened on September 11, 2001. The shock, sorrow, horror and loss of life on that day were too dramatic to ever put out of my mind. Those images and emotions are seared there forever. (But stop for a moment and think about this: no child under the age of 15 today has any personal recollection of the events of that horrible day. Is that incredible or what?)

Since that day there have been countless investigations, speeches, sermons, books, and even a movie or two… all trying to answer the unanswerable: WHY? Why did it happen?

But my own “why” question is very different: why am I so very disinclined to preach about it again this Sunday?

As I ponder this question, two possible answers come to mind. One of these possible answers is healthy and positive, the other not so much.

On the healthy side, I think my reluctance is connected with a measure of healing we have experienced as a nation. For a very long time, there was a large, open wound in our collective psyche called “911.” Like the death of a dearly beloved family member, those digits tore at our hearts every time we said them out loud.

And so, in our grief, we needed the solace of biblical and cultural wisdom to help heal that wound.

While no wound of grief is ever completely healed, the healing of this wound seems fairly advanced. Yes, the scar is still there, but much less visible than before.

And even though this will be the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks, there is another reason I am reluctant to make them the subject of this Sunday’s sermon.

It is because of the current state of our national dialogue on race, religion, and tolerance. And by “current state,” I mean, “the current degraded state…”

Right after the attacks initially came across our TV screens, Americans seemed to be unified by two emotions: sorrow and anger. We mourned the tragedy and senselessness of the innocent loss of life. But we were also mighty pissed off at the goons who planned this attack and carried it out.

Heck, we went to war over our anger!

And it seems that even today, our expressions of sadness and sorrow inevitably include shadings of righteous indignation about the “enemies of freedom” who “seek to destroy our way of life” as well as our iconic skyscrapers.

Let’s be clear: I do not at all dispute the legitimacy of the anger toward those who perpetrated this tragedy. It is absolutely valid. My problem is that I look around and see that we seem to be stuck today in an endless loop of fear and suspicion and intolerant invective these days directed toward the OTHERS. And by OTHERS I mean anyone who do not belong to the same demographic, psychographic, faith-o-graphic, or class-o-graphic group as the speaker.

In certain quarters we seem to be fixated on the narrative of a collapsing nation, besieged by slackers and scalawags within and monsters without. The authors of this narrative are all too eager to locate and eradicate those “enemies of freedom” so that we can wake up from this national nightmare get back to the way they believe things “are supposed to be.”

And too often, events like the anniversary of 9/11 are cynically used as a means to advance that xenophobic narrative.

And so the other part of my reluctance to preach about 9/11 comes because I just don’t want to be another instrument of feeding that narrative.

How about if instead we use the day to celebrate the healing God has granted us, pledge ourselves to make the day a day of reaching out to neighbors in acts of service (the real spirit of America) and praying prayers of gratitude for our first responders?

As luck would have it, I found a website (https://911day.org) that is dedicated to suggesting ways to help us do exactly those things!

Abundant blessings to you today!


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