Those who were alive when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor could likely tell us exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news came that would plunge America into WW II.
I, and most others of my generation, recall the day the news came that our handsome young, president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. I was sitting in a 7th grade algebra class. I hated algebra, so when the speaker on the wall squawked to life with an announcement from the office, I was momentarily relieved to lift my head and put down my pencil. The announcement left the teacher in tears and a classroom of junior high kids stunned and silent.
I recall 9-11-01 as a beautiful day of blue sky and sunshine. I was working alone in my office. Oddly, no one called to tell me the news. About three hours after the first airplane hit, I took a break from sermon preparation to pick up mail. I sat in front of the post office, hardly grasping what I was hearing over my car radio. Could this be possible? How could I have been working peacefully, unaware, while such horror was unfolding?
A few hours later some of the area clergy put together a prayer service for the evening, and phone calls quickly went out to invite the community. I sat with two other clergy women in a sun-drenched room at St. Peter's UCC. We had been given the task of writing a litany for the service. We sat in silence, looking at one another sadly as we listened to the tolling of the bell at the Roman Catholic church across the street. It seemed to go on and on, each somber ring striking our spirits like a blow.
Where to begin? How could we encourage anyone when our own hearts were stricken and afraid? I remember thinking how incongruous the sunshine was. It should be cloudy and raining.
The three of us joined in prayer for a few moments, began to brainstorm a bit--and then it happened--not with bright lights or trumpets or any sort of excitement. The litany came together in a matter of minutes. The one taking notes almost could not write fast enough to get our thoughts on the paper. When we finished, three pastors--a Presbyterian, a Methodist and a Pentecostal, looked at each other in a sort of wonder. Finally, someone said, "The Spirit of God came in the room with us."
The Bible tells us that God created a world that was "good" and humankind was made in the image of God. So how can such evil happen? This world was marred and scarred by sin. Thus, living on earth is a mix of beauty and ugliness, sorrow and joy, dancing and mourning, war and peace. We see ugliness every day, and we see beauty too. We saw evil and heroism together, as New Yorkers and Washingtonians, police, firemen, emergency personnel, and ordinary citizens came together in a way that inspired all of us.
Why do we remember where we were when terrible things happen? Because disaster comes unexpectedly. An unthinkable horror can arrive on a sunny day.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Someday, Jesus Christ said, evil would be defeated. Until that time he told us to show mercy in the world and to do what we could to bless others and share the love of God.
Allow me to share a secular song from the sixties. I love the song, which is really not so secular after all. Here are the lyrics:
Love is but the song we sing,
And fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the Dove is on the wing
And you need not know why.
We shall surely pass
Till the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass
ChorusIf you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command
C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Gracious God who gives us hope, today we remember those who lost their lives seven years ago. We also remember those who were injured and disabled and who lost loved ones. We remember those whose lives were changed forever and we pray for them. Comfort, strengthen and sustain them. We thank you for those who share love and care in countless ways. Bless them this day. Thank you for helping professionals, medical people, police, fire fighters, ministers, chaplains, and others who respond in times of crisis. Grant them physical and emotional strength. Help each of us today, even as we look back and remember, to look forward to the day when you return for us at last and all things are made new. Even in the midst of uncertainty and sorrow, may we celebrate life! Amen
Here is a video of the song: