Summary: "Never Forget" 9/11/16 Remembrance

An event, occurring within this past hour, fifteen years ago this morning, unfolded that forever etched into the minds of this world’s populace a visceral reality that our world would never be the same. As reports of hijackings and crashes, images of carnage and destruction as well as courage and heroics began to flood our senses, we joined all those of previous generations who could say, “I remember exactly where…..”

Amidst the surrealness, the fears, the anger, a slogan, not original to our time but an inherent quality instilled in humanity by God himself, emerged. “NEVER FORGET”. A plea, birthed by our desire to make sense of the unexplainable, by an awareness that the ever-present, first in our minds and on our lips question of “why”, could never satisfactorily be given or understood and by an insatiable need to not let tragedy be in vain. Within the briefest of time, signs and placards with this saying began appearing, not just at what would forever be known as “ground zero” but in the farm lands of mid-America and cities and towns big and small, in communities labeled as urban and rural, from coast to Gulf to coast, within our borders and across the world, in slums and ghettos and on pent houses and gated communities. On churches, on mosques and on temples. Penned and written and displayed by Christians, Jews, Muslims and those who worshiped no god at all. The events, and aftermath of 9/11, were not limited to the “dividing walls” that humanity creates and hides behind. This was not a single nation’s problem, although it occurred on its soil, this was an attack on the collective “us”.

And that saying did not fall up on deaf ears. Communities pulled together. Volunteerism was at an all-time high. Church attendance increased. Men and women stood and dug and gave and worked and cried and lifted up prays together as buildings fell. And for a while it made a difference. Tasks were accomplished, money was raised, the balance of emotional recollection and essential revival emerged, and “unity” was achieved. The slow healing of a gaping wound began.

As the scar began to form, unfortunately, the signs and placards began to fade; first those visible to our physical eyes, and then, even sadder to the eyes of our hearts. We need to look no farther than our own community, our own churches, and our own lives for this stark reality to be apparent and proven true. Some even claim that the “unholy spirit” of our world is even darker now than before this catastrophe and sadly that the pendulum of “community” has swung all the way past civility to apathy, a trait far worse than hatred.

And so, my self-imposed task this morning is to resurrect that plea and to remind us to never forget. There are things, buried deep under mounds of distance, time and forgetfulness, that I want us to uncover; and not because they beautifully occurred in the shadow of this attack, but because each is imprinted and taught in God’s word and therefore within each of these is a lesson for us. I am aware that the very act of remembrance reveals our failure to do so; the volume of our forgetfulness is exposed.

To begin, let us never forget that we live in a fallen and imperfect world. In light of my opening thoughts last week, I understand that it would appropriate for you to address me as Captain Obvious. The shear reality of this condition is blatantly apparent with the slightest of effort.

It is, however, not the mere acknowledgment of this truth, but what difference that this truth solicits that is beneficial.

First we must understand that the current condition of our existence, with all of its ills and evils, is not the world that God originally created or how it was intended to function. The current state of affairs is not by God’s design or God’s will, they exist because our first ancestors, and everyone in between, has listened to the voice of the Father of Lies. A discourse concerning the role of God’s permissive will is fodder for an important discussion and maybe even a future conversation, but it does not negate the source of the corruption or remove the blame it produces. Guilt lies at but one set of feet.

The awareness of this condition must impact us in a multitude of ways.

First, a realization of imperfection, should lead us to an appropriate, Godly acceptance and tolerance. I am aware that both of these words are pregnant with disgust and fear and both have been used to bludgeon dissenting ideologies. There is, however, no such thing as a perfect church, a perfect home, a perfect spouse or a perfect nation. There is no political party or system, no gender, no race or socio-economic caste that is without fault, blemish or sin. “For all have sinned and fallen short…” And to live with that expectation is painful and painfully wrong. I am not suggesting that a pass or a “get out of judgment free” card be given for sin, that just because errors are universal; that they must ignored or universally accepted and that the use of God given wisdom and discernment is the same as being judgmental. A sin greatly condemned. But what I believe to be true, is that the fixation on blemishes makes it difficult to see community, makes it hard to see mutual culpability and shared blame and facilitates division, animosity and the continual reopening of this wound. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul states in chapter one the importance of praying for discernment but closes in chapter four with the admonition to make the choice to look for, remember, and to focus on the positive things in in life and others, even the imperfect one. This will change our disposition, demeanor and dialogue.

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