A harbinger of resurrections
9-11 came and went with hardly a stir. True, President Obama and the First Lady led a national remembrance for the nation accompanied by a powerful time of silent prayer. Other less publicized but no less relevant memorials were held.
Still, 11 years later, words don’t capture the pain, loss and agony unleashed upon the world by the fall of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the assault on the Pentagon and its inhabitants by a highjacked American jet and the crash of a United jet in Shanksville, Pa., aided by the heroic last stand of passengers over highjackers.
Time seemed to stand still as did life in the world. Death and carnage were omnipresent. Churches were jammed. Families drew near. Athletes bowed in prayer before the action began. People watched news until its sheer madness and violence required turning away for some peace of mind. We wept with those who wept. We rejoiced with those who rejoiced. To an imperfect degree, we walked and prayed for those whose lives and challenges were eternally stamped with reminders of that fateful day. And yet, our most recent 9-11 came with hardly a stir.
The aftermath of 9-11 has taught us many lessons. Among them is this: “Hope springs eternal.” God keeps reminding us that resurrections are real and somewhat commonplace. They are without end and somewhat commonplace, personally and corporately. A saying of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., makes the point, “for every Good Friday, there is an Easter.” New York City chose not to succumb to protracted lament acknowledging, “Gee, ain’t it awful.” Rather, NYC has kept busy with the work of resurrection. From the dust, the ashes and the downtimes, New York City has sprung to new life.
Sometimes I wonder if we United Methodists have sung, said, preached, lectured, reported and/or repeated, “Gee, ain’t it awful” ad nauseam regarding our 40-year membership decline. Is it not time to fully give ourselves to the work and publicity of resurrections, big or small? What happened during 9-11 was not a permanent state. Neither was Good Friday. Both of them were followed by resurrections.
As my wife and I prepared for our arrival in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, a pastor and his wife emailed me a riveting note. It was entitled, “Your departure and current salvations.” I am divulging an excerpt of what they wrote to me Monday, August 13, 2012, 5:13 p.m.:
We want to thank you for being faithful to Christ and your evangelical roots in the church. Some years ago you asked us to let you know if we had been able to lead anyone to new faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I am happy to report that over the past three weeks our parish with the leadership from XUMC and a layman have been used by God to bring 85 people to new faith in Christ!...the youngest one that I was able to lead to faith in Christ was an 8 year old boy. Most of the salvations were the generation between the ages of 8 and 22. A few over the ages 70 also made decisions for Christ. I thought it might lift your spirits to know that the work of evangelism is still going on in the conference and the Father is still drawing people to faith in Jesus…I trust that you will see a great harvest of souls in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference…”
Going out the door, they reminded me that my passionate quest for disciple making had not fallen on deaf ears. Would I have ever known had I not been reassigned? I don’t really know. Nevertheless, I am expecting a continual harvest from every single church in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. Need I say “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” is our main thing.
On the first day of the week, the gospels report that the disciples spoke joyously, “The Lord is risen.” And hearers responded, “The Lord is risen indeed!” If I confront you with good news that “The church is growing.”Surprise me with this affirmation of faith,“The church is growing indeed!”
Nothing can separate us from resurrections, big or small; not 9-11, not Good Friday, not “Gee, ain’t it awful.”