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9/11 and the Jesus Way

22 September 2010

My contribution to the Life Together blog (my internship program), adapting some material I published on here last week.

This past Saturday was the ninth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Everyone remembers where they were when the news of the events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania came across the airwaves. I was sitting in Mrs. Bowman’s 8th grade English class when our principal made an announcement in a choked voice that still stands as the only time I witnessed her emotions. For the remainder of the day, the entire school stared at the television, transfixed by the horror that was happening too close to home. For my generation, this moment in time sits as a pivot: that moment when suddenly, everything changed.

Last year, President Obama made a call to service in remembrance of 9/11 and of those who perished on that day. The Life Together program, in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, organized its second annual day of service stemming from this call. We came to serve alongside our brothers and sisters from across Eastern Massachusetts, both inside and outside of the Church. Service in this way struck me as an act of radical protest. By serving, we protest against the violence and hatred of that day with humility and love–the opposite virtues–rather than with violence and hatred as some are wont to do. This is what Christianity is about: Love in the face of hatred and fear.

I had the privilege on Friday night of travelling with another intern to St. Stephen’s, Lynn to watch the premiere of the youth group’s short film, “I am Lynn”, which many of you will have the opportunity to see at Diocesan Convention in November. In it, I heard the youth of St. Stephen’s recount stories of violence and fear from their past that shook me to my very core. But the striking thing was not the fear, but the fact that these youth were able to stand up in the face of these horrific moments and show compassion, not only towards the people around them, but also on themselves as witnesses, survivors, or perpetrators. Though they would likely be hesitant to view it this way, the love I witnessed in these youth who have so much slated against them blew me away. Rather than buckling to fear, they counter it with love.

It strikes me, then, that three days after September 11, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Cross. The collect of the day reads: “Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself…” quoting the Gospel according to St. John, 12:32. For first century denizens of the Roman Empire, the cross was the symbol of the most shameful, most horrifying way to die imaginable. But upon that cross, Jesus stretched forth his arms in a loving embrace, not bowing to the violence of that moment. And through that embrace, the symbol of the cross—once the incarnation of terror—has become the symbol of God’s saving act of love for us.

This is the Jesus way: to stand boldly in the face of terror, violence, and hatred and proclaim peace, humility, and love.

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