I can hardly believe that it has been 15 years since the 9/11 attack. This week as I prepared for the Connecticut 9/11 Memorial Service, I was called to once again reflect upon that day and the changes that took place, the fear that was felt, the pain that was caused, and the courage that was exhibited. Everyone’s life was changed on that day, the nation’s life was changed on that day. This was my day on September 11, 2001. I was a freshman in college just 18 years old. Classes had just begun and I was overwhelmed by the amount of work required of me. I was excited to be living on campus away from my parents for the first time. I was not aware of world politics, international relations, or our own internal political workings. I was living very much in my own little world.
That day, I was sitting in college writing 101 and was thinking about how I was not interested in learning about what the professor was assigning us for a writing exercise. I was bored, drawing pictures of flowers in my notebook thinking about what my roommates and I were going to do later on that evening. Then there was an announcement that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day and we were to return to our dorm rooms because there had been an attack on the twin towers in New York. I walked back to my dorm room quickly not knowing quite what was happening. When I returned to my room the TV was already on and all four of us huddled around and watched the news in horror. I remember crying watching the pain of so many people for the first time in my life.
My biggest question was, “Why?” A question that I have yet to find an answer to. My life was changed. Not because I lost someone. I was lucky not to have that pain. But I could no longer justify not being politically aware. I could no longer justify not knowing what was going on in the world. This was my welcome into adulthood. I all of a sudden cared very deeply about what had happened, about justice, about making a difference, to show the world that Americans can’t be bullied, can’t terrorized, that we band together and become stronger in times of need and hardship. My life was changed forever. This was the event that would launch a war on terror that would bring my big brother to Iraq.
9/11 was a tragic event. But one that brought changes to our nation, our world, our society, and our communities. These changes were hard, they were painful, but they helped shape us as God’s people. I am sure that there will be other defining moments in all of our lives that will change us and our perspectives in life teaching us to care more deeply, to be more empathetic, to seek unity as God’s people.
In Exodus, the people of Israel had a nation defining experience. They left Egypt in a great exodus that brought them into a harrowing experience in the extremes of the desert where they would remain for fifty years. In our selection for today, Moses is communing with God in the mountains learning from God his will for this newly created nation of Israel. However, the people were still finding their way in their relationship with God and in Moses’ absence they made a golden calf to define God, to have a visual to worship as they worshipped the gods and goddesses of Egypt. They were still learning their way. They were still figuring out how they would unite together behind the might of a God they could not see. They were struggling through changes just as we did on 9/11 and those changes affected every aspect of their lives. Those changes still affect our lives to this day as we too grapple with what it means to be a united people in the face of adversities with the grace of God.
Jesus teaches us with his two parables that we are to be open to the changes we experience in life. We are to open our hearts to the possibilities that come from life changing events. We are to open our hearts to the all encompassing love of God that can bring us new beginnings out of the tragedies we experience personally, as nations, and as a world. God does not forget those who were lost. God does not forget those who have suffered. God offers to teach us how to use those experiences to show more compassion, to affect the lives of others, to do his work to make this world a better, safer place for our children to grow up in.
Today we are called to reflect on September 11, 2001. We are called to remember who we were and who we have become in the face of a hate that brought about the deaths of so many. We are called to think about how we can use the experience to bring about awareness, compassion, love, and unity. We are called to never forget. We are called to use the pain of 9/11 to reach out to others with empathy, understanding that we all continuously have hardships that shape who we are, and as such, we need to invite all peoples to find comfort, hope, and love in the community of the risen Christ. Remember what Jesus did in our scriptures. He invited all people righteous or sinner to learn from him, to find unity through his teachings to, learn to build a new life based in the love of God. So too today we are invited to join with those sinners and tax collectors to come together with all of our pain, our experiences and to find strength together, unity together, and purpose in our experiences. There is always a new day in the light of God. So may we all go forth inspired to a new life, a life of care, service, and compassion. One that will bind us together as communities, as a nation, and as a world to bring peace. Let’s honor those who were lost on 9/11 with our dedication to compassion.
(based on Exodus 32: 7-14 and Luke 15: 1-10)