9/11 Anniversary: Another Chance to Be the Church


Beloved in Christ Jesus:

Certain events have a way of marking our lives and memories. Every generation has at least one, often more than one event that never leaves their consciousness. Sometimes these are deeply personal. They are not known to the world at-large nor experienced at a conscious level by a large number of people.
Like all of you I remember vividly where I was, what I was doing, what I was anticipating when the disastrous and tragic, terror inspired and conspired events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded. I watched and listened in shock and with a gut filled with anxiety. I knew the world had changed and that my life and your life had been marked by 9/11. We now stand a few days away from the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. I am moved this year as I have for the past nine years to remember and reflect, to pray and to act.
We are called to remember all the lives that were lost as well as all of those who still live but with unwelcome scars and in many cases limitations. This remembrance includes, of course, victims and responders. In the face of crushing loss and danger people put themselves at risk to make a difference. None of these should be forgotten. Over a protracted period of time people have continued to act heroically and sacrificially. We are grateful.
Remembrance is not just about solidarity and keeping faith with loss. It is also about meaning. It is a time and an opportunity to ask “why?” It also invites us to ask “what now?”
I pray that as we remember this year we will ask this latter question with renewed courage; a courage that will allow us to tarry for the answers. Asking what now drives us to plunge the depths of who we are called to be as children of God, members of a large family, citizens of a particular nation, followers of Jesus the Christ, pilgrims toward a “city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God”. “What now” is about the integration, coherence and meaning of all of these.
I press on the “what now” question because among other things I yearn for the church to clear its throat and be delivered from its self absorption in order to be a community that is doing good, credible theology in word and deed in such robust ways that it alters the course of so many conversations gone awry.
So this 9/11 Anniversary gives us one more chance to be the church. We are called to be a church whose worship is so well crafted and engaged that all who participate begin to see, smell, inhale and taste another sovereignty, a new creation. We are called to be a church that leads people to the heart of God in prayer so that when we say “Our Father” we see how large and diverse our family really is. We are called to be a church that helps us to pray for ourselves and what we need and to pray so as “to bless them that curse us and despitefully use us.” We are called to be church in such a way that we model for the world the tearing down of barriers between persons, families and tribes. Seriously, what if Christians, for example, could carry on their most sensitive conversations in ways that gave life rather than in ways that suck the air out of the room and cannot sustain life?
I can’t know for sure how you will use Sept. 11, 2011, but I hope you will worship, pray, remember and be re-membered, live your prayers, worship and do theology in such animated ways that goodness will be poured into the world and New Creation will draw nearer.
Yours in Christ
Gregory V. Palmer