Remembering… 9/11

September 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is September 11, nine years after the vicious terrorist attack on US soil, in Pennsylvania, NYC and Washington DC. I remember that day as though it was yesterday – most can recite every detail of their lives on that fateful day – I know that I can. The nation was thrown into a chaotic and desperate rush to find answers, hear loved ones’ voices, to care for the wounded, identify the victims, comfort their families, and respond to our attackers.

The church I pastored met for prayer the next evening and nearly 1000 people came to weep and sing and pour their hearts out before God. Two and a half weeks after the attack I went to New York and served at a volunteer site, offering meals, comfort and prayer to the Military, Rescue workers and Law Enforcement, as they worked around the clock in the city. I was then taken to Ground Zero, where an Officer took me to the center of the devastation. I haven’t quite recovered from that moment, and probably never will. Thousands of lives were lost and sorrow blanketed over our nation for many months and into the next year. Nothing again would ever be the same.

The Sunday after, I preached from Psalm 46, sharing in solidarity with my dear friend in ministry, Jeff White, who pastors the Newsong Community Church in Harlem, and who I stayed with when I went to Ground Zero. Together we proclaimed the promise of the Gospel.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though
the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most
High dwells…

The solidarity that drew Jeff and I to preach the same passage, and that compelled me and thousands of other clergy and volunteers to go to Ground Zero, and that drew hundreds to our and many other churches – to pray – and the sense of reflection that our Nation today shares, are reminders that the best way to care for people in their brokenness is to enter into it and share it.

We can’t shake that moment, not only because of its shock-value, but because the suffering has remained with us – with all of us – we share it. It has become part of who we are, and it is something we don’t want to any longer be identified apart from. Because in that moment all of our differences – our wealth and poverty – our strength and weakness – our success and failure – our skin color – our ethnicities – our languages – our histories – our denominational affiliations – our generations – all of it, in that moment, faded into the backdrop, and together, as one, we shared in sorrow. We loved people we would never meet. We wept over families we would never know. We anxiously awaited news on individuals we had never laid eyes on. Love broke through the sorrow and devastation.

There is something so gospel-like in this – because we are invited to enter into the sufferings of the One that first entered into ours – Jesus – who knows and sees us as we are, in our unfinished state, and who loves us any way.

Friends, this is good news.


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