Hindsight to Foresight

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life . . . .”
–Deuteronomy 30:19

Today, I offer a brief detour from our weekly reflections on “the gospel according to . . . “ series. The detour takes the form of a short reflection as we enter a time of personal and corporate remembering following yesterday’s ten-year marker of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Ten years ago, I was serving in my first appointment as a young “preacher.” As it happened, each Tuesday morning I joined a group of retired women from one of my congregations for prayer. That Tuesday was no exception. We prayed dutifully and with a newfound earnestness that morning vacillating between watching the television coverage and returning to our intercessions and supplications. It was a surreal moment. That evening, at my other church, we had scheduled a tree planting to beautify the exterior to our recently completed fellowship hall. On my knees for a second time that day with a group of parishioners–this time packing dirt around the base of a newly-planted tree, I found myself deep in a conversation about fear and uncertainty and about what our appropriate faith-filled responses should be. I am certain I said some wise and many foolish things that day. However, mostly I am glad to have shared that day with thoughtful, faithful companions struggling with what it means to follow the Prince of Peace in a world that is often anything but peaceful.

Below, I include an excerpt from a September 7, 2011 article in Christianity Today. I include this piece for two reasons. First, I offer the excerpt because the person cited is Will Willimon, presiding bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, will be our Hamilton Lecturer this November at YHC. Second, I offer this excerpt because after enjoying the weekend with nearly 100 students on our Spiritual Life Retreat, I am pretty much spent.

From Bishop Willimon:

On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States.

The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.

Have a wonderful rest of your day and remember our various events offered both today at 5pm in the Robinson Dining Room and tomorrow at 7pm in the Village Seminar Room as we explore what it means to live in world after September 11, 2001.

Peace.

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