It all happened in a flash. Four planes. Three thousand deaths. Symbols of American might erased by explosions and dust. It all happened so quickly, so furiously.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, we heard politicians and news commentators speak dreadul words: “We have to look at things differently now,” “September 11 changed our world forever,” or as President Bush said, “None of us will ever forget this day.”
In the face of both wanton murder and a sinister thirst for vengeance, Christians had very little to say. We were speechless, and we succumbed to believing that the sentimentalities offered by pundits and politicians were true. But they were not.
For followers of Jesus, the world was not changed on September 11, 2001. As horrendous and as tragic as that day was, it must not be allowed to define who we are as Christians. For those of us who have the privilege and the responsibility of calling ourselves disciples of Jesus, every event in the history of the world pales in comparison to what took place in 33 A.D. on a hill outside of Jerusalem.
That murder, that execution on a wooden cross is what must define who we are. It was because of that day that “We have to look at things differently.” It was Good Friday that changed our world forever. Easter, not September 11, 2011, is the only day that none of us can ever afford to forget.
As we reflect on the last ten years, we can see that the politicians and commentators were wrong. Things have actually not changed that much since September 11, 2001. We are still at war in various places around the globe. Osama bin Laden is now dead, but others still plot harm against us. You and I still carry about our everyday mundane activities; we go to HEB, we go to church, we poke fun at Longhorns, Bears, and Aggies. The whole world was not changed by four planes and a handful of murderers.
But the whole world was changed because of those events outside of Jerusalem two thousand years ago. A new thing, something never before seen, came into being. Followers of an executed political criminal came together to worship the Lord of death rather than live in fear of death. This new thing, an assembly of believers called the Church, gathered in joy because they had something to die for – a new life with Christ.
As we approach the ten year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we will hear many words about that day. We will be dragged back to wherever we were when we first heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. There will be words of fear and anxiety. There will be words calling for revenge and vindication.
But I offer to you different words: words of healing, love, and nonviolence. Words that speak of a love so grand that it is not destroyed by a handful of madmen and four planes, words that speak of a love so magnificent that it is actually made perfect on a wooden cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem. We, the Church, need not fear death. For it is in death that we take our hope, it is in dying that we are reborn with Christ.