Do you remember where you were on 9/11? That is all I really have to say, isn’t it? You know what that means. It is a central part of our modern identity as Americans, just like the memories our parents and grandparents have when they remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I was flying back from Jordan on my first trip as a member of the newly formed Friends of Jordan, an organization of Christian clergy in North America created to encourage support of Middle Eastern Christians and conversation with Middle Eastern Muslims. We were coming back to the United States encouraged by a new sense of brotherhood/sisterhood with Orthodox and Roman Christians and a commitment to learn more about the Islamic culture. In the coming sunrise of that new relationship, the ruins of the Twin Towers tried to block out the light. As you can imagine, my emotions were a wreck.
I was particularly interested in the heroism of the passengers on Flight 93 and the leadership of Todd Beamer. As a husband and father, he greeted his two sons each morning with the phrase, “Let’s roll guys!” Todd tried to reach his wife while in flight over Pennsylvania, but could not get his credit card to work. He asked the operator to pray with him the Lord’s Prayer and spoke of his faith in Jesus Christ. Then he dropped the telephone and the operator heard him issue the order as St. Michael, the captain of the Lord’s angels, “Are you ready guys? Let’s roll!” The plane went down outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and most likely spared another target in Washington D.C. I believe it was Todd’s conviction in the power of the Resurrection that gave him the strength. Death has no power, fear is helpless. It was a story that encouraged a nation.There were other stories, too. These stories were not as popular or as covered but they too witnessed to the weakness of the hosts of darkness. They were stories of anonymous donors providing food and water to rescue personnel in New York City and Washington D.C. Trinity Church on Wall Street was right around the corner from the Trade Center when the earth shuttered as the towers fell. The Church miraculously avoided destruction and their pews served as beds for weary rescue workers. The pews were scratched and gouged by their boots and equipment. You can still see these marks today; the church decided not to refinish the pews so that they would serve as an ongoing reminder of the sacrifices of so many. There were stories of Christians who escorted Muslims to the supermarket so they would not be harassed or attacked. It was the power of the Resurrection that enlightened our fellow believers to know when to resist evil through force as well as the courage to stand beside those whom the world identified as Christ’s enemies in the parking lots of grocery stores. These were peculiar acts to a world that has not believed in the power of the Resurrection. It was not other members of the human race that were enemies of the cross. It was the shadowy demons of hate, greed and revenge that were being opposed by the hosts of God’s people. In that moment, the Church of Jesus Christ was unconquerable. Why? The Resurrection! In Christ’s Resurrection, there is victory. Sin and death have been defeated. The world may not understand. The secular forces of our society make shake their heads in confusion and disbelief, but you understand, don’t you? You too have known the power of the Resurrection. Celebrate with the hosts of God’s people again this week. We will remember the one dramatic moment in human history that unleashed God’s final victory. Death cannot hold the God of life and creation. Neither can it hold the children of God.