Post date: Sep 11, 2020 4:19:5 PM
Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,
Greetings of peace to on this day of lament and remembrance.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nineteen years since the bells of The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine woke me up the morning of September 11, 2001. Bells, and the phone incessantly ringing. I had just quit two of the three jobs I had been working, and was getting ready to begin my position as adjunct professor at Columbia University. That Tuesday was my day to sleep in. My class began on Wednesday. I was exhausted. I ignored the bells and the phone, until I realized the bells weren’t pealing; they were tolling. Something’s wrong, I thought. I grumpily got up and listened to the messages on the answering machine. Family members had been calling and were saying something about planes crashing into the World Trade Center, asking if we were okay, and had my stepdaughter Miranda gotten out from downtown, as she went to school right next to the World Trade Center. A message from Miranda’s mother: planes had crashed into the towers and they were walking from Tribeca to our place uptown. I turned on the television, and then I saw it. The towers were on fire. I watched in horror and panic as footage of the crashes kept playing over and over. And then, behind the news commentator’s face, there was a rumble, as one of the towers collapsed. I realized I had just watched hundreds, if not thousands, of people die. And then the second tower collapsed. More death. My parents called and told me to get out, but I couldn’t. The city was locked down.
It was a long four hours before I knew if Miranda was alive, and another two after that before I got to hug her, weeping as I held her close. That night, as I looked out the bedroom window facing south toward downtown, I knew our world would never be the same. We had lost so much, and I was fearful of what the next day would bring. Another attack? For several months afterwards, I lived in a state of fear every time I got on the subway, and if truth be told, I was constantly in a space of lament.
Lament. We don’t do that too often as a church body. People want peppy and upbeat and joyous. But sometimes, we need to lament. As theologian Walter Brueggemann describes it, “Lament is our most vigorous mode of faith. It is a spirituality of protest and is our way of recognizing that all is not right in the world.” Lament holds God accountable for what has gone wrong, doesn’t seem just, or just plain aches in our souls. When we raise our voices in protest and cry out, “No!” this witnesses to a protesting, active relationship with God, and not to a subservient inactive relationship.
As one person observed, lament is the resistance to new life and also the embrace of new life. Lament is the cry that the world should not be the way it is, and the vigorous belief that the world can experience and have new life. Lament can move us to rejoicing so that even within our cries of protest and grief, we know the Lord is near, hears us, holds us, and through our lament, we have the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. Lament believes in hope.
Come to worship believing in hope this Sunday. We will gather online at 10:15 AM to chat with one another, and then worship together at 10:30 AM. Our music was recorded in our beautiful sanctuary. I am singing the anthem “Even If.” Our Sermon-Prayer-Reflection is “Go Down, Moses” with Judith Daugherty on piano and Brian Kolins on drums. I will be preaching from Matthew 18.21-25 and my sermon title is The Way of Forgiveness. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link.
And then come to the Meditation Garden at 6 PM for our 9/11 Service of Remembrance and Hope. We will read the names of those we lost from Middletown on that day, pray, and read Scripture. In addition, there will be special music from Nancy Scharff. Please bring your own chair and a mask as we will practice social distancing. If there is inclement weather, we will have the service via Zoom.
Every 9/11, I lament. We lament. I cry out to God.
I am tired of reliving every year the pain and grief of that day, for my body continues to remember and holds the trauma. But in this act of lament, I know, I am assured, I am convinced that the Spirit is near, and groans with me in sighs too deep for words. As Brueggemann describes this faithfully defiant act of lamenting, “It is in voicing despair that the soul is most keenly alive to the reality of God. The power of hope is enacted in the utterance of despair.” Let us continue to claim the power of hope . . . even if.
In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,