Folks, I must admit I’m worried on this anniversary of September 11, 2001. I’m a middle school teacher when I’m not preaching. And fourteen years later, not a single one of my students can answer “Where were you when it happened?” Some may fear the impact of young Americans who don’t remember the crippling fear, the long hours of wondering what was to come, and the galvanizing days of patriotism that followed.
But I don’t. I worry about a generation of Americans who don’t remember a time before it happened. To whom our pregnant words like 9/11, World Trade Center, and Twin Towers are history to learn alongside Normandy and Christopher Columbus. Before they know it they will be driving, voting, draft/enlistment-eligible young adults who do not possess a single pre-9/11 memory, of a time before the wars. The talking heads and vote-grabbers paint in fear and hate as skillfully as the Old Masters used pencils and oils. In their masterpieces we can lose sight of the Jesus who prayed for those who were killing him. We can forget that the enemies of the United States aren’t interested in traditional military victories; they desire to make us slaves to Fear and Thanos. To these false gods we hand over life, property, and happiness in an attempt to grab safety and pride. We exchange God’s power, love, and self-control for mind-warping terror. Those who need the same love of God we have received are seen solely as deserving the same punishments which we formerly deserved. We lash out, only to find our gains turn to ash in our mouths along with the enemies for whom we are called to pray. Our hands unleash horror on God’s good Creation.
And if we, who remember before it fail so easily, how will the next generation do whose world is bathed in madness? For them and us, a prayer I first wrote last year.
Holy God, on this day of pain and division,
Bring Your Kingdom of peace to this broken and war-crazed world.
Bring Your comfort to those who mourn the hundreds of thousands of Americans, Afghanis, Iraqis, and others who have died in the last 14 years.
Bring Your provision to those who still live but suffer from displacement, wounds both physical and emotional, deployed loved ones, and neglect by society because the world has fixed its gaze on hate.
Bring Your hope to those of us whose first memories of adolescence and adulthood were the images of burning buildings and falling bodies; Lord keep us from cynicism.
Teach us to rely on You, not chariots and fighter jets, gold and stocks, kings and presidents, or tribes and nations.
Forgive us when we hate and wish death upon those not like us yet made in Your image, and teach us to forgive those who hate and wish death upon Americans, equally made in Your image.
Keep us from the very real and understandable temptation to cheat on You with the comforts and perceived safeties of this world, and deliver us from evil.
Because all of this world, from the furthest foreign wilderness to the stones of our most revered American cities, is Yours and was made for Your glory.