9-11 and 3 lingering Questions

Where were you?
September 11th has become one of those days – Pearl Harbor – JFK – We ask “Where were you?” and we each have a story. We need to tell these stories. By telling the stories we remember and we honor.

We tell our stories and in so doing we discover that life has gone which leads to Question

Where was God?

This is a question that is uttered even today in the midst of destruction and devastation – State Fair Stage Collapses, Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, a Car Crash, a terminal illness, and more . . .

But on this day years ago, even one police chaplain working at the site in NYC was overheard to say, “Where is God in this?” I don’t have a problem with the question. I have a problem with the bad theology that often results from the answers.

The answers like . . . God punished America or this was God’s wake up call to us or all things work for the good of God; therefore, God must have caused this to happen. Really? We needed a wake of call. God used this as punishment . . . all these thoughts leads us to affirm that somehow God wanted this to happen. Too many good people died that day for it to have been a good thing . . .

This was a tragic and sad day for everyone . . .

So, how do you reconcile a loving God with the events of 9-11?

First, I do not believe God caused 9-11. These events were not meant to teach us or America or the world nor were they meant as a means of punishment. We may not completely understand what motivated the individuals involved, but we certainly know a lot more about terrorism and what motivates terrorists. We don’t have to agree with them, but at least we have an idea of what motivates them. The events of 9-11 were driven by the actions of these individuals.

But that can somehow lead us to believing then that God was absent on this day. But, if we completely remove God from the equation we are left with an empty and hopeless situation. This event was not empty and we gather today because I believe it was not hopeless . . .

I saw God in the many people that responded that day treating people in the midst of the rubble and chaos . . .

I saw God in the medical and rescue teams who were moved by the tragedy and immediately left their homes to go and assist . . .

I saw God in the outpouring of supplies, prayers, all for the people we did not know . . .

A story that emerged from the rubble came from one of the rescue workers who found a cross two days after the collapse of the twin towers. The cross was from World Trade Tower One, and was found in World Trade Building Six. He actually found several crosses standing upright in the smoldering wreckage days after the attacks. Crossbeams that had fallen from the top of the collapsing north tower landed in this unusual position. “The crosses were just shards of steel that came from Tower 1, and went right through the roof of Building 6 and destroyed the entire center of it,” he explained. He marked the site by spray-painting on a nearby wall the words “God’s House,” and a directional arrow. In the days that followed this site became a place of quiet comfort and strength to all who entered.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of generosity that saw the outpouring of people giving to aid the victims.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of comfort and strength for those who lost loved ones and waited for news.

God was not the source of the events. But God was the source of the comfort and the hope that people found as they buried their dead.

God was not the source of the events. But God is the reason we gather as church communities united in faith to remember the sacrifice by so many

You see, if you take God completely out of the equation of 9-11 – – – you still have all the death and destruction, BUT you will have removed the single most important source of comfort and hope!

We need to be reminded: That no what happens or what we have done we cannot out distance ourselves from God.

I believe then as now, God was there every bit as much as He is here with us this day. But even the discovery of God in the midst of tragedy leads us to one final question.

So what? What difference will it make?

We each are left with a need to respond. That need to respond in part brings us together this day. What will come of this day? How will we be different because of this day? What will we learn?

My hope as we gather this day and as we continue to seek an appropriate response to the actions on 9-11-01 is that we will continue to:

1. Show Respect and Gratitude for those that run towards and not away from danger. We are thankful for the safety and peace we have each day. To sleep at night. To live in relative peace. We are more apt to say thank you to those who serve and have served to keep this peace.

2. We continue to remember. The tragedy would be for us to not learn and to just forget. The tragedy would be to forget and not be changed the events. The events of this day 10 years ago give us perspective; help us to recapture hope/resolve for a better tomorrow; and they strengthen our need for community and unity.

3. We continue to Respond

We Pray for those who protect us, give us a sense of peace.
We Pray for peace, the end of war (that has been in part our on-going response).
We Pray for wisdom and unity as we continue to respond as a country.

We Act by volunteering to make this world better.
We act by sacrificing our time for the greater good.

We Give by living even more generously.

One last personal observation as we seek to respond:

This day provides a stark reminder this day for Jesus’ words in John 15:13

“Greater love has no friend than to lay down his life for a friend”
When I visited NYC I was drawn to St. Paul’s Chapel right by the World Trade Center.
In that Chapel that became a resting place for the rescue workers is a memorial plaque right by the entrance:

May it be said of us all that we died in the midst of our usefulness …

As Christ died for each of us might we live for Him …

Never forget the great sacrifice made on your behalf.