“In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5 NRSV) (Emphasis mine.)
So unless you’ve been living under a rock today (which I must admit sometimes sounds appealing these days) you know that today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. It’s a day that’s marked with memorials, moments of silence, and community prayer both in America and other places in the world. It feels like the fervor to hold these remembrances has faded a bit over time, and that’s to be expected a bit, but this year more people are reflecting because it’s the 15th anniversary, and for whatever reason it seems like every five years that passes after an event is an appealing and significant time to look back.
And that’s fine. For many of us our social media feeds have been dotted with people talking about where they were that morning and what they thought and felt. It’s one of those moments in history like the Challenger disaster, the JFK assassination, or Pearl Harbor. I thought about doing that as well, but after some thought, prayer, and meditation I decided to take a different tact.
First off I think it’s important to realize that now, 15 years on from that day, that we have an entire generation of young people who either weren’t old enough to remember life before 9/11 and some that weren’t even born yet. These kids are hitting high school and college, and they literally don’t know any other world other than the one scarred by the events of 9/11/01 and the things that happened as a result. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? We have an entire generation of young people that don’t realize that you used to be able to go all the way to the departure gate and wait with your loved ones to board a plane.
To me, that is a horrible loss of innocence and it just shows the affect that that single day had on the entire world. We now divide an era of time by that date. There is before 9/11, and after. That is very significant. Look around today, look at the polarized state of our politics, look at the totally irrational fear of Muslims or immigrants that is fueling much of our political discord. Yet the weird thing is that it’s really not these kids who never knew the pre-9/11 world that are having a fit. It’s people my age or older. Some folks seem to labor under the delusion that if we just do this, elect this person, or have this war that we’ll be able to go back to that pre-9/11 world. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, and I think that many of us still have to come to grips with that, which is also a loss of innocence.
So if we can’t go back, what do we do now? How do we move on? Where do we go from here? First off, I think having a day like today is a good thing. For those of us who were around that morning, the events were quite traumatic, even if you’re like me and you were in Utah, far away from anything that actually happened. Those events, those pictures, those sounds are seared into our minds with white hot heat. I will never forget watching the news coverage and seeing people jumping out of a window from 100 stories up because it would be a better death than burning to death or suffocating. I’ll never forget the THUD sound that their bodies made when they struck the lobby like area below. We need to remember sometimes. We need to feel that grief, we need to give thanks for the people who ran into those buildings to try to save lives. We need to feel the darkness of that day again.
It was a dark day indeed.
But that is for today, so what do we do tomorrow? Today in our adult Sunday School class we talked about the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” Personally I think that’s a bunch of hogwash. Often people mean well when they say it in the midst of a tragedy like this, but it’s just not true. It’s not true in the sense that God willed this to happen or that it’s all a part of some big plan that God has. I realize that may be comforting to some people, to think that it’s all part of some big God master plan that will someday come good, but I just don’t buy it.
God didn’t will that day to happen. He didn’t will the hijackers to take those planes. He didn’t want all those people to die. He didn’t want his children to have to make a choice between jumping out of a tall building or burning to death in the final moments of their lives. I flatly reject that idea, and if that’s your God, I don’t want anything to do with him, because he seems like a sadist.
God doesn’t desire that there be darkness, especially the kind of darkness that settled on His creation that day. In fact, God hates that darkness so much that He gave us a light, a light that the Apostle John said shines in the darkness and will never be overcome by the darkness. That light is Christ, God in precious, corruptible human flesh. Jesus experienced the darkness, He experienced everything we do. He had to watch family and friends die. He had to watch events spiral out of control and into madness. He eventually experienced death himself, in one of the most painful ways. Then in perhaps the darkest moment in history, we humans killed God. The Scripture tells us that on that day darkness covered the sky in the middle of the afternoon as Jesus looked to the heavens and wailed in pain: “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
Seeing that happen, you could excuse the disciples for thinking that the light had gone out, that the darkness had overcome it.
But the light never went anywhere. It may have seemed pretty dim, like viewing a candle in the distance, but it was still there. Three days later it shone forth in even greater glory for the whole world to see.
Darkness did not have the last word back then. It did not have the last word on 9/11, and it WILL NOT have the last word in our world or even in our own lives. It’s going to seem like that sometimes, and those times are going to be scary and painful, but in the end The Light, The Light for all people will shine through, and when our time here is done we will experience the fullness of His grace and His love in His presence.
So tomorrow, go live! Today has been a right and proper day of remembrance, but tomorrow is a day for life! Tomorrow is a day for laughter and celebration! Tomorrow is a day that is a gift to each and every one of us and we are called to draw closer to The Lord and closer to each other. Make that happen. Don’t wait. None of the victims boarded those planes 15 years ago and thought that their lives were about to end. Christ has come and wants you to feel the fullness of the abundant life He offers. Accept that, and become a part of the Kingdom. In this Kingdom the last will be first. In this Kingdom everyone will be loved unconditionally. In this Kingdom we will all look after each other and help pick each other up.
I challenge you to do that tomorrow. Find someone who you can help lift up. Find someone who’s day you can transform for the better, and make it so. When we do those things, we live in The Light, and the more The Light shines, the more the darkness of even the darkest days will fade away.