Commemoration of 9/11 at St Peter the Apostle Church, Naples, FL
September 11, 2017
Colossians 1, 24-2,3 + Psalm 62 + Luke 6, 6-11
These are the readings being proclaimed throughout the world in churches that share the Common Lectionary on Monday of the 23rd week of the year. That is today. In 2001, these readings were proclaimed on September 10, the day before the attack, and I can’t help but wonder how many us may have been prepared by these words of scripture for what was to come the next morning.
Paul writes words of encouragement that we still need to hear in the face of every tragedy and disaster. Speaking about a suffering and struggling community he says: “I wish their hearts to be strengthened and themselves to be closely united in love.” At the center of the readings from the Bible that day and still today are those verses from Psalm 5 we have just heard reminding us that God takes no delight in wickedness with the promise that all who take refuge in God will be glad and exalt forever.
When we pick the 6th chapter of Luke’s Gospel trouble is brewing between Jesus and those Scribes and Pharisees who seem always on the lookout for some way to stop and silence this man of peace who values people more than rules. A question is raised in the heat of this confrontation about whether it is right to preserve life or destroy it.
This question raised by Jesus must still be asked every day in every age. What draws us together today, and what troubles our memories, is that far too many people who share this earth with us have decided for one ideological reason or another that is it is better to destroy life, and the evidence of that is not just confined to a September day in 2001. In London, Barcelona, Nice, Paris, Ft Lauderdale, and countless other places, this madness reveals itself leaving us with a choice just like the one Jesus faced in that synagogue. You see, the Scribes and Pharisees would have left that man to suffer. Jesus would not. Which of the two is the better way: to preserve or to destroy?
A physical image emerges from this Gospel that should last longer than our memories of burning buildings. Stories of courage and selflessness that are part of the memory are expressed in that simple image Luke puts before us: …..an outstretched hand. “Stretch out your hand” says Jesus. “Stretch out your hand.” And, that is exactly what men and women like you first responders did and still do every time someone else choses to destroy. The promise of this day is that we will continue to stretch out our hands.
Remembering brings an event from the past into the present. We are about to do that at this altar. We will bring the broken body of Jesus Christ from the past into the present so that in remembering and sharing we may also share in his resurrection in the future. Today we remember 9/11 not to dwell on the past but to look to the future and remember what that day taught us; that an outstretched hand is the promise of life and a future. A clenched angry fist only offers us pain, sadness, and destruction. There is still a choice to be made. Brothers and Sisters, obey the Word of the Lord, and stretch out your hand.