Saturday, September 17, 2016

9-11: Fifteen years later


Fifteen years have passed, as a friend put it, “in the blink of an eye” It’s hard to believe…

I read a wonderful story about Teddy…from his good friend:

On 9/11/2001 the unthinkable happened. Teddy ran to my daughters school and brought her to my girlfriend's house. My son was home and forbidden to leave the block even though he was 21 years old. A couple of hours later I went home to change and as I started to leave the house, Teddy, standing in the doorway asked me where I was going. I told him I was meeting up with some other paramedics and taking A couple of ambulances downtown to which he replied, "not without me you're not". I responded, "Teddy, I don't have time for this I have to go. They are not going to let you in there because you are not a Member of the service." I agreed to let him drive me back to Mary Immaculate Hospital where two ambulances stripped of all of it's equipment sat waiting for a bunch of us that were going down there for the purpose of recovery. I had a brief conversation with one of my partners outside the bus and when I stepped up into the ambulance There was Teddy, hands cradling the back of his head, chatting it up with four of my coworkers. How the hell did he get into that bus? Needless to say he was right. I was going down there, but not without him.


That was our Teddy.

Fifteen years…long enough for a “truther” movement to develop.  (We had to pull the plug on one event scheduled here that turned out to be, frankly, anti-semitic…) One of our leaders has suggested that this is just one more  proof we “Need to move on…” I understand that. And I want  to speak about some of those issues.

I have to first recall that we were who and what we needed to be. Who we were supposed be: a church. We were:
1 a place of prayer and comfort for the community
2 a faith community that responded to human need…
A. we made sandwiches, 1500 pbj's
B. helped prepare food, peeling onions all night at Boulet
C.  went to ground zero
D. served as chaplains
E. were a hub center for 18 months with a social  helping those who “fell between the cracks”
F. hosted over two dozen work groups from around the country coming to our city to help out
G. hosted events seeking to prevent the war
We were named by New York City Presbytery “an angel of 9-11.”

Angel of 9-11

And it was strangely the best 2 years of the last 20 for West-Park. Over two dozen new members, 35 in Sunday School. (We were stopped by the economy …young families leaving the city…and then  our “building project” and the conflicts that process brought out…)

What have we learned?
1 New York City is a resilient city. We  live daily as a collective act of will. This city works because we  wake up and decide it will. We choose it to work.  So when a crisis hits, we start doing what needs the done before anyone tells us what to do. That’s why more lives were not lost.
2 We had a chance to connect to the rest of the world. To understand the suffering of others. What it felt like to  be Berlin, Belgrade, Beirut. But we fell into American exceptionalism. ( And that’s what our elder objects to…and she’s right..) As if our suffering is somehow more special than others. 
A. We have hosted here the annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemorations. Remembering our bombs that claimed over 250,000 in one day. And effects that lasted generations. 
B. My friend from Serbia described experiencing when NATO bombed Serbia for 72 consecutive days. 
C. Gaza, where over 3000 were killed in two “operations”
The fact is we are not special

3.  We opened door to a xenophobia/islamophbia that remains today…even in our presidential campaign. We hosted here a leader of the Sikh community sharing their post 9-11 experiences. 
(There is online a beautiful story from Memphis … how the the Heartsong Church has welcomed and hosted the Memphis Islamic Center… Both communities have found their lives enriched by their neighborly partnership.)
4. The war we tried to prevent (“Our grief does is not a call for war”, the signs said.) has gone on for 15 years. Sadly, there is NO growing protest movement. Isn't because there is NO draft? It’s war by other peoples’ children. It doesn’t touch us. And there are no signs  of ending. It was begun under false pretenses. And the result created ISIS. ( Mr. Trump note: NOT Obama, it began way before that…)

Then gospel speaks of lost coins and sinners…it begins with the courage to face ourselves in the mirror…

The Heart Song community has not been  universally loved and respected. One comment read “Another church throws Jesus under the bus…” Moving interview with a member who had been ready to leave. Angrily confronted his pastor. Told to read the gospels. In tears, he says, I discovered that I was what was wrong with the world. I was the problem…And the joy that has come from hosting the mosque. And his feeling of what he has gained, And of forgiveness. 

“Amazing grace”..indeed.
As Mary Gauthier sang,  “We all could use a little mercy now. Yeah, we don;t desire it but we still need it anyhow..”

Fifteen  years later,we can begin by facing clearly who we are. And be willing to be changed by God’s grace…

Gospel Luke 15:1-10
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
3So he told them this parable: 4"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.


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