Summary: An immediate pastoral response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 and a call to prayer for our nation’s leaders and their decisions.
This, to say the least, has been an interesting week for our country en masse and for all Americans individually.
It started off gloriously. Much of the nation was experiencing the first hints of autumn. Skies were clear. The sharp edge was off the oppressive heat. Monday, a splendid day, became Tuesday, with the same wonderful promise was in the air. Clear, cooler, nearly cloudless, nearly perfect.
But there was a cloud looming over our heads, a cloud we could not see because its source was not condensed moisture. The skies were blue and crystal clear, but a storm front was gathering. Dark, ominous clouds of an unseen and violent nature . . . clouds carrying a storm of unprecedented proportion and unimagined ferocity.
It came up, not from the horizon of the earth’s curve, but from hatred born in human hearts. It cast its cloudy pall far and wide, but still we could not see it. Indeed, it is obvious that this storm front had been gathering for some time—roiling, building its strength and purpose, whipping its might into frenzy and determination. And our eyes beheld it not. Not yet. The storm, even at the moment of breaking was invisible to innocent eyes. But break it did. Without warning or obvious provocation, the storm broke loose with full fury.
Yes, Tuesday, September 11th was a beautiful day masking a hidden, violent, earth-rending, life-changing storm. A beautiful day, a magnificent day of clear skies and the beauty of God’s nature displayed for all to enjoy . . . and a wonderful day for flying.
Oh, how I wish that we didn’t all know the fury of that storm, that we hadn’t seen the sights of suicidal collisions, streaming explosions, gouts of flame, billowing smoke, plummeting bodies, collapsing towers, the artificial snow of thousands of pieces of paper fluttering to earth, the apocalyptic appearance of mountainous walls of dust and debris cascading through the streets.
I wish we hadn’t seen it. I wish it hadn’t happened. I pray God he would turn back the clock and make the storm’s opening rage a thing that never was and never would be.
But that’s not to be. What is is. What’s real is this reality. And even though it hurts and confuses and appalls and angers and saddens and . . . well, you know how we all feel. Even though we feel so much, we cannot make it go away.
And we cannot even find a good answer—a satisfactory answer—to the many, many ways we attempt to ask, “Why? Why would God stand back and let this happen, let this evil be perpetrated on his children by his children? Why?”
The best we can muster is a somewhat hollow sounding explanation about God loving us so much that he allows us free will to do good or evil. We remind ourselves what God has shown us in history and in inspired Spirit-filled moments: that God did not create us to be marionettes—puppets on celestial strings—but free, thinking, deciding, feeling, choosing sons and daughters, and that he loves us enough to let us be free even when the abuse of our freedom brings him to tears. We remind ourselves of that, but right now we’d gladly trade all our freedom of will in exchange for the lives of the 5,000 or so of our countrymen that have been so uncleanly taken. If God had just attached a few strings, and controlled us all like the eternal puppeteer he could be but chooses not to be, those people might be alive. So free will sounds like such a sham, right now, and the explanation offers so little comfort.
We feel it. Since Tuesday we’ve felt it deeply: guilt, remorse, anger, hate, grief, desolation. These have stirred in us as a sour mixture. There’s a new storm brewing, now, and it’s in us.
And this storm, too, is a powerful storm. It’s fueled by resolve, an awful, incredible resolve to see justice. To gain vengeance. To have our revenge on the beasts who have struck us so foul a blow.
But when we declare that those who struck us are beasts, aren’t we becoming what we loathe? Aren’t we de-humanizing what God created human? Aren’t we devaluing what God values, the life of one of his children or many of his children.
You see, God still values his children even when they’re wayward, when they do evil, even when they do beastly things. He never desires the death of a sinner, but desires always that a sinner might turn to him and sin no more. He leaves the 99 and goes after the one lost sheep until he finds it and rejoices. He searches for the lost coin and rejoices when he finds it. Does he search less if the sheep was really evil or the coin tarnished? No! he does not.