Sunday is the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I’m surprised there is so little about it in the blogosphere that comes my way. Brian Draper has a piece in the LICC stream here which references the songs of P J Harvey Let England Shake; the BBC is running a US faces ‘credible 9/11 threat’ story, and my brother bishop of Ely is going to mark the occasion with the people of Meldreth this Sunday
Bishop Conway said today that he will “acknowledge the tenth anniversary of the events of 11th September 2001 and will invite the congregation to remember the people of the United States and to honour the memories of those who died, particularly those who died saving others.”
Bishop Conway met members of the New York Fire Service on a visit to America in 2002 and was profoundly moved by their courage and by their vivid memories of colleagues who had died in the fire.
Prayers for peace, reconciliation and healing will be said in churches across the Diocese of Ely throughout the weekend.
For those preaching on Sunday, the lectionary readings raise some interesting questions:
Exodus 14.19-31: The Crossing of the Red Sea
Both the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and we with those who were attacked and have responded to the attacks believe that the LORD is with us. How do we resolve that dilemma? Although not everyone would agree with me, my own understanding is that the one whom Muslims call Allah is the one whom we as Christians know as our Father and Creator God, although not unnaturally I also believe that within the Christian faith and through Christ we have a fuller, deeper understanding of who He is (and assume that a faithful Muslim would make the same claim on the basis of the Koran). I would also like to think that within the Muslim tradition there are many texts and traditions that would not see attacks such as those made on 9/11 as likely to be within the will of God, but that is for them to speak about not me. What I am most sure about is that the God whom we encounter in both the Old and the New Testament is a Redeemer, and whether we are talking about the Exodus, the Resurrection, the working out of 9/11 or our own eternal destiny, we can look to him and trust him for redemption. Can we – especially when we feel under threat?
Romans 14.1-12: On Passing Judgment
Paul is writing to members of the Christian community when he urges them not to pass judgment on each other for their different attitudes to eating meat (meat offered to idols would have been in their minds, I think, not modern debates about vegetarianism). But I suggest that we can fairly generalise to a principle that if God is the judge of all, all our human judging is provisional, and that even if we do in practical terms have to make judgments, we must not do so in such a harsh way that others are caricatured or worse as a result.
Matthew 18.21-35: On forgiveness – The Unmerciful Servant
No surprise if Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. Forgiveness and mercy are at the heart of our understanding of God (and of Islam too); and we hear a clear call to be merciful as God is merciful, to forgive as we hope to be forgiven – even when we must mourn with those who mourn and share their pain. Back to Brian Draper and P J Harvey:
Harvey researched her album of war songs meticulously, speaking to soldiers who served in the so-called 9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. She crafted this collection of songs to bear witness, as a war musician, and to explore the broken, emotional humanity of all conflict.
We got up early,
washed our faces,
walked the fields
and put up crosses.
the damned mountains,
and some of us returned,
and some of us did not.
It’s hard to know how to respond personally, whether to her music, or this decade. We can, at least, mourn with those who mourn, especially this weekend.
But next time we suffer any kind of attack – an assault on our personal pride, perhaps, or a wounding, literal or metaphorical, trivial or catastrophic – we can pray, hard, for resolve: to remember those who have fallen; and for God’s sake, and theirs, and ours, to shake this world of escalating hate and respond – imagine – in love, as love, as Christ.
Post Communion Prayer
God of all mercy,
in this eucharist you have set aside our sins
and given us your healing:
grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that healing to this broken world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.