Sunday, September 11, 2011

There is a Hope: My sermon in Memoriam 10 years later...

I can remember every single detail about my morning 10 years ago today.

I was a few weeks into my junior year of high school, and I was awake getting ready for school.

What I have always found most interesting about that morning is that we had our TV on. My entire life our family had a standing rule that the TV did not get turned on before school. With 6 kids to get ready for the day my mom wisely decided early on that we did not need any extra distractions.

However, for some reason the TV was on that morning.

And as I walked out of my bedroom into our family room I saw my dad, standing, as though he had stopped in his tracks, silently watching the events of 9/11 unfolding on the screen.

I too stopped, I was silent, as I watched.

In stunned disbelief I returned to my bedroom, where I had my radio on and I then heard news about a plane downed in a field of Pennsylvania and something had happened at the Pentagon.

I ran out to tell my mom and she answered, “you must have misheard. This doesn’t make any sense. It can't be all connected can it?”

However, as the morning wore on we all realized that all of what we were seeing and hearing was indeed a reality.

My memories are so vivid that I can even tell you what I wore to school.

At school my fellow classmates were in a state of confusion and panic. We were wondering if we were at war, or if we were going to war. We wondered who did it, if we were safe. This violence, which unfortunately was not new in the broad realm of the world had suddenly been thrust into our country, onto our soil, into our direct reality.

I remember those with loved ones in the area waiting frantically to hear from them, and I can remember so desperately wanting one of my teachers to say something.

But none of them did.

We proceeded through the school day as though nothing had happened.

And I can remember thinking, “Why aren’t we talking about this?  Why isn’t someone explaining why this happened? What do we do now? What does this mean? How does something like this happen?

Another thing I remember about that week is the sunday following that Tuesday. I remember how full the pews in my home church were.

Members who weren’t regular attended that day.

Those who only attend at Christmas and Easter attended that day

Those who didn’t attend our church or any church did that day.

In my small town 2,524 miles away from New York city. People filled the pews of the church. Searching for meaning, searching for solace, searching for prayer and community.

Of all the things I so clearly remember about that week, I actually do not remember what the sermon was about. Instead the image that I hold so dear to my heart is the fullness of the pews, the silence and reverence among the people. A coming together in the face of an unspeakable tragedy. A coming together in recognition that every had changed.

I knew that I was living history. That this event would become a “Where were you when…” question.

In the immediate wake of 9/11 it did seem as though everything had in fact changed.

There was widespread mourning as the death tolls rose, as more and more emergency rescue crews perished in their rescue efforts.

There was a nation wide mourning and a nation wide question of what’s next?

Yes in some ways everything had changed.

However, in some ways many things stayed the same. As my friend and colleague from Divinity school N.icole F.lores reflects this morning.

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric, discrimination, and violence that ensued was disgustingly predictable.  The visceral fear that engulfed the act of traveling reflected our national apprehension about security in general.  The subsequent violence of years of war was also not a surprise.  War is a national habit, our response in the face of threat, our knee-jerk reaction to hatred and violence.  What else could we have expected from national leaders in this instance?  Everything had changed, but nothing had changed.”
 And so that’s where I am this morning 10 years later. Reflecting, remembering, and looking towards a country and a world where some things will never be the same and a country and world that is yet very unchanged.

I think sometimes when the very worst things happen, the best way to address it and speak of it through our silence.

Silence in powerful.

There are times when words simply seem to escape us and all we can do is turn our heads and our hearts and our minds towards God.

One of the reasons I chose this passage from Romans is because it so clearly addresses our inability to know what to say, or what to do.

Chapter 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

This is the hope and the power that Jesus offers to us.

Even when we’re so lost

Even when we’re rendered silent and speechless from the things around us

The spirit is at work.

The spirit intercedes

The spirit groans

In the midst of the very worst

In the midst of something that defies any kind of reason or understand we are not alone.

As we are all more than fully aware the world if full of suffering.

Full of suffering without meaning,

Suffering when thousands of people lose their lives on a single day due to an act of hate.

That kind of suffering is without sense and without reason.

However, this scripture offers a hope.

A hope that in the midst of all of that we are not alone.

We are never truly without words because God can hear us fully and clearly in our silences. God can hear us in our stunned disbelief.

God can hear us when we are too shocked to speak

And more than that

We are never alone because God is right there with us.

Crying when we cry.

Mourning the loss and destruction caused by hatred

God is wrapping us up and holding us in this.

I don’t know about all of you but the imagery of God holding us close when we are without knowledge of what to do, or where to go is one that brings me a great deal of peace and hope.

More over as Christians we are tasked with the responsibility of doing more.

Of asking ourselves what are we going to do to help eliminate hate?

What are we going to do to be a source of love in the world?

What are we going to do to show others what it is to live a gospel of love that Jesus taught us?

Are we reading and willing to fully forgive?

We have the power to change and transform the world.

We must only keep on hoping.

As our scripture says, “For in hope we are saved,” and the thing about hope is that we can’t see it. Because as Paul wisely writes we don’t hope for what we already see or what we already have.

Instead we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience, and more than that, we work towards the vision that we are someday hoping to see.

For myself I hope to one day see peace.

I have hope that one day we might fully embrace difference as not something to be overcome or feared but instead something to celebrate and learn from.

As Jonathon Sacks so beautifully says, [What lies behind fear] is a profound insecurity that makes you feel when you meet someone who is not like you, or doesn't agree with you, that that challenge is a threat against your very being. Aggression is always a sign of insecurity. And insecurity is always, at bottom, a lack of faith, not a presence of faith.”

I have hope that we as a Christian community will be a people of love and justice with all of those we encounter in our world.

I have a hope that we will stand secure in our faith and our knowledge of the love of Jesus.

I have a hope that instead of making assumptions about what we think we might know about someone because of how they look, or dress, or what religious tradition they are a part of. That we might instead see that they too are a child of God.

10 years ago to this date will forever be embedded in my mind. In a couple of years I will be tasked with the responsibility of talking with my own children about the events of that day, because already 10 years later we have a generation of children who do not know what this day means or why we are remembering.

But in those conversations and as we move forward my story and my understanding will always be framed with hope.

For in hope we were saved.

For in hope we have the power to envision and work towards a different tomorrow

In hope we can image a world where violence stemming from hate is no longer a reality.

A hope that my children may never ever have a day that they will need to remember.

These are just some of my hopes

And in Christ we are all offered the opportunity to continue to hope for and work towards a different and better tomorrow.

For I am convinced that neither death nor earthly powers can separate us from the love of God.


[i] http://nicholemflores(dot)wordpress(dot)com/2011/09/11/lingering-questions


~Jess said...


Debbie said...

Wow! Amen Amen!

Debbie said...

Can I steal some of that?

sadie607 said...

Yes debbie provided you properly cite haha.