Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years later

I offered prayers of remembrance in worship on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

Every person here today who is old enough to remember September 11, 2001, can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. It was an event that none of us will ever forget.

I was serving in my first parish, having been ordained earlier that year. The church treasurer, the chair of the finance committee, and I had scheduled a meeting that morning to begin work on the budget for the coming year. About eight a.m. Central time, the treasurer called me and said, "Turn on your television. Something has happened."

We had our meeting that day not at the church but across the street at the manse, where we could watch the unfolding story on television. Somehow we managed to come up with a preliminary budget for the coming year, even as we wondered if there would be a coming year.

In the days that followed, my own reaction was one of grief and horror. In that small Louisiana town where I was a pastor, people began leaving wreaths and bouquets of flowers at the door of the local fire station.

We had a prayer service at the church the following evening. That Sunday, I began my sermon with a question: "What do we tell the children?" And here's an excerpt of what I said that day, ten years ago:

For the Christian, in the end, it all comes back to faith. The God who created this world, the God who gave us life, is with us still. Our God is not a God who can be bombed out of existence by a terrorist.

God sent us his Son, Jesus the Messiah, that the world might be saved through him. Jesus lived among us, preaching a message of good news to the poor, while at the same time pointing out the shortcomings of those who lived only by the letter of the law and failed to fulfill its commands of caring for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. Jesus was seen as a threat to the authority of the religious leadership of his day, and they sought to do away with him. They succeeded. Or so they thought. But not even death could stop the power of God. In the face of the worst that evil could do, God triumphed. Jesus rose from the dead, and the world will never be the same again.

If you believe in the power of God to triumph over evil...
If you believe that Jesus through his resurrection has defeated death...
If you believe that all things are possible through the work of the Holy Spirit...
If your believe, in the words of the great hymn of Martin Luther,
"The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever"... 
Then the worst any terrorist can do is still no match for God's power and might.

So much has happened in our world in the last ten years. But today, ten years later, we remember.

Let us pray.

Holy God, you are a God who remembers us. Through the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, whom you did not forget in the grave, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray to you this day. Remember us, O Lord, as we remember those who died ten years ago today, on September 11, 2001.

2,977 victims, including:

246 people on the four planes:
40 aboard United Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, PA.
87 aboard American Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.
60 aboard United Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center.
59 aboard American Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon.

2,606 who died in New York City, in the Twin Towers and on the ground.
125 at the Pentagon, including 55 military personnel.
411 emergency workers who responded to the scene, including
342 firefighters, 10 paramedics, 223 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority officers.

And 236 citizens from 90 countries besides the United States.

Remember, O Lord, those who were there that day and survived. Be with them in the moments when the traumatic memories come back and threaten to overwhelm them. Be with the loved ones of those who died and those who survived.

[We remembered by name those known to members of the congregation who were there that day, those who died and those who survived.]

Lord God, remember us, even as we remember them. Be with us in our grief and confusion, even all these years later, as we face the reality of the depth of evil in our world. Comfort us, and remind us that you are still our God, and that we can trust in you.

The evil that thought it had triumphed one Friday afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem was wrong. The evil that thought it had triumphed on September 11, 2001, was also wrong. Thank you, God, for your Son, Jesus Christ. Through him, death has been defeated. Thank you, God. Amen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back to Syracuse University

Newhouse School of Public Communications in foreground;
                           Crouse College in background.
Newhouse I, where I studied magazine journalism

Took a quick trip to Syracuse this past weekend. It was my first trip back in 18 years, since the 1993 reunion. Went to the opening football game in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse vs. Wake Forest. Syracuse won in overtime.
It was quite an experience to see the campus again. A lot of the old Victorian houses have been torn down and there are sleek modern buildings in their place. Still a lot of beautiful old campus buildings, though. The Newhouse School of Public Communications (where I went to school) now is completed, with the third building of the complex opening in 2007. You can still major in magazines, but they have a lot of new majors like online journalism. Some of the students' work was displayed on the walls -- web page designs, storyboards for TV ads, magazine layouts. The future of journalism is in good hands with this new generation. Classes had been in session for five days, and late on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, students were working in the news lab on giant Macintosh screens (you could see them from a glass window one story up) and huddled in meetings around their laptops working on group projects. The professors have them hitting the ground running, just like when I was a student there.
Over in Crouse College, the gorgeous red stone Victorian building with the stained glass windows, which looks like it belongs on a seminary campus or at Harry Potter's Hogwart's, the music students were practicing. Also hard at work on a Friday afternoon! I am sure some of the student body was down on Marshall Street lifting a few in the local bars, oops, you have to be 21 to do that now...anyway, some of the students were hard at work and no doubt some of them were hard at partying! College life.
A few trees were starting to turn in the Adirondacks on the way down to Syracuse. Fall will be here soon. With the amount of rain we've had this summer, I'm hoping the leaves will be gorgeous.
Sweetie the cat (18 pounds plus) is in my lap as I write. He sends his regards :-)