Pastoral Statement on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11/2001

Pastoral Statement on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11/2001

September 10, 2021

Every year on September 11, we remember. We remember exactly where we were. We remember how our eyes were glued to the TV as the horror of the attacks unfolded in New York City, and we remember the depth of our despair. At the time I was in Arizona, visiting my parents, and the day is indelibly imprinted in my memory. Fear, tears, numbness, shock, even shaking my fist at God. How could 2,996 people perish this way?

As we still wrestle with the reality of the evil of these attacks and the grief of so many who lost loved ones, we also recognize the great courage of the police officers and firefighters who immediately arrived at the four sites: the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon just outside Washington D.C; and a field in Shanksville, PA.

Stephen Bouman, former Lutheran (ELCA) bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod, tells the story about a pastor in his synod who was also a chaplain to the fire department. He witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center and immediately went to the site. On arrival, the pastor saw many firefighters putting on their protective gear, so he gathered them together and made the sign of the cross with oil on each of their foreheads. Then they ran into the building. Survivors said that they could see the oil of the crosses on the foreheads of the firefighters, as they shone with the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness.

On this twentieth anniversary of 9-11, the gospel lesson from Mark 8:34-35 (CEB) is poignant. “After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them.’”

You and I are also called to go into the world with the cross of Christ emblazoned on our foreheads, shining for all to see. We, too, are called to continue the work of peace and reconciliation as we remember and honor those whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001. Empowered to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, how might we embody grace and hope as we reach out to those in need?

Goodness is stronger than evil, Love is stronger than hate.
Might is stronger than darkness, Life is stronger than death. 
Victory is ours, victory is ours, Through God who loved us.  
Victory is ours, victory is ours, Through God who loved us.  

(Prayer of Desmond Tutu, set to music by John Bell of the Iona Community in Scotland)
Bishop Laurie Haller

Prayer for the Twentieth Anniversary of 9/11 from Discipleship Ministries