Greetings in Christ Jesus.
Last evening, it was my privilege to participate in an interfaith prayer service commemorating 9/11. I found it meaningful and moving to be with people of goodwill--driven by faith to cross barriers real and perceived -- to be a witness to the vocation that is ours to heal the world. Today is September 11, 2019. Eighteen years ago, this nation and the world were caught off guard by four coordinated terrorist attacks. Nearly, three thousand people perished because of those attacks and countless lives were set on a painful trajectory with which we continue to wrestle. The physical, emotional, spiritual and financial losses are still being calculated and will be for some time to come.
Like it or not, we live just on the edge of fear and suspicion of the “other.” Hate and resentment of people of particular national origins and religions are increasing not decreasing. It has even been codified. Military veterans of the several fronts of war resulting from 9/11, continue to struggle for the health care they deserve and to heal from the moral injury of war. Some first responders to 9/11 are also a part of the wreckage of the inhumanity of terrorism and the sometimes-sluggish response to conspicuous need.
This nation mobilized enormous will and resources to respond to 9/11 which represented an external threat to the safety and sovereignty of this nation. But, as is always the case, not all threats to personal or social well-being are external. There are grave threats to our moral, spiritual and physical well-being from the inside. Lest we forget the bombings in Oklahoma City, Centennial Olympic Park, the Boston Marathon just to name a few. Oh, remember the shootings at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, a Christian Church in Charleston, SC, a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Let’s not even enumerate the mass shootings in schools and shopping areas. Together, we know this is just the short list for purpose of illustration. Already in 2019, tens of 1000’s have been killed or injured by gun violence. And we should not overlook the unmistakable rise in hate speech and action. If the tide of all this is not stemmed and the river redirected, so to speak, we will collapse on our violence and hatred.
So, on this remembrance of 9/11, maybe it’s time for Christians to remember who we are -- or at least who we are called to be -- and lean into it. Now, by no means do I want to say or imply that the vocation of peace building is the work only of Christians. But I do want to put a stake in the ground and say that it is the work of every Christian. Or, at least it should be. Living into the reign of God calls forth work. It is the work of knowing and embracing our neighbors. It is the work of standing up to hatred in all our interactions. It is the work of finding the courage and acting from it to pass sensible legislation now. But, the work of meaningful legislation must be accompanied by the work of community building. That is the work in which the church allegedly has competency. We can ill afford to lose one more life or watch one more community fall apart because we were moral and political cowards. Jesus, we would all likely agree, put it all on the line in the service of his mission and vocation --the salvation of all. Can we risk any less than our own comfort and the maintenance of an unstable status quo?
And so, we pray “Cure thy warring children’s madness; bend our pride to thy control. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal”.
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer