Tomorrow will be a big day for me, so I post this on the eve of 9/11. Franklin Roosevelt said of another deadly day that it would "live in infamy." I wonder if anyone held a special remembrance on December 7, 1951? Maybe not because by then the US was involved in another conflict, this time in Korea. Over 50,000 Americans died in that war then ended in an armistice that has never turned into a peace treaty. As I look back over my 53 years, I find few years when the shadow or reality of war -- hot or cold -- hasn't been there.
It will soon be ten years that the US (and other nations) have been fighting in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq). Days after the planes hit our leaders were urging us to continue life as usual, "lest the terrorists win." I don't believe the terrorists have won, but life has never been the same since. None of us have been untouched by either the military, economic, or political consequences of 9/11.
Tomorrow I will teach a Sunday school class at my church on Matthew 24:1-14. Jesus announces to the disciples that a day would inevitably come when their society, symbolized by Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, would come tumbling down. In those days the love of most will grow cold through exposure to increasing and seemingly unrelenting "wickedness." This prophecy was immediately fulfilled in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, but it has application to any age characterized by "wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes." Sounds a lot like the last ten years to me.
What does Jesus counsel his people to do? Escape to a bunker? Take over the government? Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?
No. He counsels two things of us:
1. Remain a people known for love. During the fall of Jerusalem and the later collapse of Rome itself, the Christians engaged in amazing works of self-sacrifice that helped preserve some manner of order as western culture fell back into barbarism.
2. Remain a people known for hope. Keep proclaiming the Gospel. In today's sectarian environment, this is crucial. This is not proselytizing. This is simply telling the story of human history from the perspective of the Jewish and Christian Scripture. The theologian Robber E. Webber died in 2007. His last book was titled "Who Gets to Narrate the World?" His answer? Whoever tells the better story. These days, Christianity is known more for shouting moral advice at the world rather than sharing good news. In bad times like ours, people need a reason to hope.
I'll finish tomorrow at a prayer meeting. I hope it will be a service that is careful to keep the "stars and stripes" lower than the cross. I hope it full of personal repentance, not political tantrums. I hope it is a moment when Spirit of God casts down our temples and warms our hearts to each other.