Remember. Never Forget. A 9/11 Reflection

Remember. Never forget. These are the calls, perhaps even commands, of September 11 ever since that fateful day in 2001 when towers fell, lives were lost, and the world changed. We should indeed remember and honor those who died; and we should never forget the “heroes” (we call them saints in the church) who ran toward the destruction, risking their lives – which many of them lost –  to save others.
911The church is good at remembrance, we do it all the time. We remember saints (those flawed followers of Jesus who set an example for us to follow) on the day of their death. We remember the life of Jesus in our liturgical calendar.

At the center of our life together, we gather around a table with bread and wine “in remembrance” of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. The mystery of faith that is proclaimed as we remember is, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Notice how this remembrance looks forward, not back, at an event that continues to shape us. Notice how remembering the tragedy, pain, and death on the cross serve to fuel present and future hope. Remembrance at the table of Christ does not revisit the past grief, nor does it work to stoke unresolved blame or anger over the past event. The remembrance of the Last Supper is an active remembrance that builds hope and celebrates the new life that arises in the wake of tragedy and pain. That is instructive for our efforts to remember; to never forget 9/11.

If what we remember, what we will not forget,  is the rage and anger that filled us all that fateful day; if all we can remember is our grieving hearts and our longing for retribution; if our memory provides for seeds of hate and revenge, then our remembrance serves no purpose other than to enslave us.

If however, we can remember with all solemnity those who died in the attack and find compassion for the world through hearts open to pain; if we can remember those who gave their lives to save others, and glean from that a reminder of how we should face the current destruction of this world with courage and grace, we will have remembered well and hope will be the result.

Our world, at this moment, groans in pain through one disaster after another; it suffers under the divisions we place between each other. Remember that day in 2001 when, in the midst of all the destruction and loss, people came together and loved one another. God brought hope out of the ashes. God is doing that all the time.

Peace,

Tim Olson

 

copyright © Timothy V. Olson, 2017

 

Boston Bombings: What Do We Do?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of the blessed, Holy Trinity.

As you have likely heard, today the Boston Marathon was the target of two bombs that left two dead and quite a few injured.  While the story continues to unfold, there are few concrete details other than the knowledge that death and suffering have once again come as a result of the apparently intentional acts of humans bent on harming other humans.  Our first reactions are emotional, of course.  An event like this evokes fear, terror, grief and the memory of past events.  Certainly we all experience shock at yet another example of violence.

I would ask first and foremost that we all engage in prayer to the Lord of the Resurrection, the Prince of Peace. Pray for victims and their families; for first responders and ER nurses and doctors; for law enforcement officials and our government as they try to understand and discern what has happened. Pray also for your own sense of peace and for faith to drive out the fear that can grip us when we feel attacked. Our nation will likely show a lot of rage in the days ahead.  The “peace that passes all understanding” and comes through the power of the Holy Spirit will provide calm in the storm. Through the peace of Christ we will not feed the rage or the fear.  Also – and this is the hard part – pray for the people or person who set off the bombs. God calls us to pray for our enemies.  But, this is not an act of passive or pious works that gain us favor before God.  Praying for our enemies is the first, and very powerful act of bringing peace and redemption.  The judgement of those who do violence belongs to God.  We will not add to their violence with our own call for revenge or retribution. So, pray – please.

Perhaps you are wondering why God would let this happen. Know that God is not in the bombing business. When we look at God revealed to us in the Christ of the cross we see one who is suffering with us – with the victims and the dead and grieving. We also see one who overcomes evil, suffering and death not through violent response, but by redemptive suffering; by taking the evil on, unmasking it for what it is, and by overcoming it through new life and resurrection.  You don’t have to understand how that all works, just look to Jesus and see that it does!

Perhaps you feel fear because it seems like this could happen to any of us at anytime.  On the one hand, that may be true.  We are not as safe as we think each day.  However, it is also true that violence does not befall all of us.  Death however is real for each. In Christ we have nothing to fear of what he conquered by his resurrection.

Perhaps you don’t know what to tell you kids. Tell them the truth, answer their questions and witness to the hope and faith you know — even if you don’t have a good handle on it at the moment.

Remember what the angels say time and agin in scripture; remember what God tells Moses as the Egyptian Army closes on them; remember what Jesus tells the disciples when it seems the boat will sink -DO NOT BE AFRAID, I AM WITH YOU.  Perhaps the words of a song we used in Advent will be helpful. They are by David Haas, based on Isaiah 43 and used her with permission:

You Are Mine

I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear.
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice.
Be still and know I am here.

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see.
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light.
Come and rest in me. Refrain

Refrain
Do not be afraid, I am with you.
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me,
I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

I am the Word that leads all to freedom,
I am the peace the world cannot give.
I will call your name,
embracing all your pain.
Stand up, now walk and live!”  Refrain

Text: David Haas, b. 1957

Text 1991 GIA Publications, Inc., 7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago, IL 60638. http://www.giamusic.com. 800.442.3358. All rights reserved. Used by permission.