September 10, 2020
Today is the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11; nearly 3,000 lives were lost that day in a matter of minutes. I was in my college dorm watching the TODAY show when the first plane hit and newscasters were trying to figure out what was going on. By the time I reached my morning job at the Student Recruitment Center on campus, the second plane had hit and we were all gathered around campus TVs watching with our eyes glued to the screens. No one spoke to each other; we were silent as we watched in horror and tried to make sense of what was happening. The pull to stay close to the TV and close to one another was almost like a magnetic force. No one moved. 9/11 forever changed the lives of the 3,000 victims and their families and the countless first responders and their families. It forever changed the lives of members of the military and their families. It forever changed the lives of Muslims and Sufis and people of Middle Eastern descent in our country and around the world. It forever changed the lives of countless civilians and military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. It forever changed the lives of all of us in terms of how we travel and how we look at ordinary objects like shoes and back packs and liquids as well as how we look at people – viewing how they dress and their skin color as a potential indicator of danger or threat. We quickly knew that 9/11 would be a day that would mark time forever. Life before 9/11 and life after 9/11.
As I write to you, 190,000+ people in the United States have died from the coronavirus – a virus that did not exist on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 and a virus that will no doubt still be with us on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. These 190,000+ deaths are spanned over 6+ months, not over the course of a matter of minutes as was the case on 9/11. Millions of Americans are grieving the death of a loved one from this virus, millions of health care works and first responders are working around the clock, and all of our lives have been drastically changed. The impact of the coronavirus on public health, on the economy, on mental health, on education, on our local and national government, on scientists and researchers, on literally every single person is immeasurable. One day the history books will try to measure it. But right now, many are numb from the numbers, many are growing indifferent and impatient with safety measures, many are growing disillusioned with leadership – even as we are all mourning a variety of losses or stresses on our lives and our livelihoods while giving thanks for other revelations this unique time is teaching us. With each passing day we realize the magnitude of this virus and how 2020 will be a year that marks time for us. Life before 2020. Life after 2020.
In the case of 9/11, the loss and grief was immediate – and we could all see it with our own eyes. In the case of the coronavirus, the loss and grief is slow and drawn out – and many of us do not see it with our own eyes unless we have lost a loved one or work in a hospital or on the front lines.
9/11 was visible, even as we struggled to figure out how to respond to the threat of terrorism, and still struggle with it to this day. Coronavirus is invisible, and yet we also struggle to figure out how to respond to its threat. All of this makes me realize that whether a tragedy is immediate or drawn out and whether what we fear is something we think we can see or something that is too small for the naked eye – tragedy is tragedy. Grief is grief. Fear is real. And how we respond to fear affects lives.
This is where our faith comes in as Christians. Because there is another way that we mark time. B.C. (“before Christ”) and “A.D." (anno domini, Latin for “in the year of the lord” or the year Jesus was born). Of course now we use C.E. to refer to the “Common Era” or B.C.E. “before the Common Era,” but regardless of what we call it, the birth of Jesus changed how we view time and how we mark time. Time before Christ. Time after Christ. While God has been coming into our world for all of time, God coming into our world as Jesus changed the world. And it changes us too.
In the midst of all the ways that we mark time, I encourage you to reflect this week on what it means to mark time by Jesus’ life and love.
How is your life different because of your knowledge of Jesus’ life and/or your faith in Jesus as Lord and as one who follows him?
What is one concrete thing you can do today that shows that you mark time by Jesus’ love for you and for others?
How can you incorporate an act that honors Christ and a prayer that thanks God into all the ways that you already mark time with birthdays, adoption days, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, unions, retirements, deaths?
As we remember the lives lost in 9/11, as we mourn the continual loss of life from coronavirus, as we mourn the lives lost to racial injustice and a plethora of other ills, may we remember that when Christ lost his life on the cross – there was resurrection. There was another beginning. There was a New Day. A New Era. A New Life. It will only be so for us today if we choose to mark time in this way. If we choose to see and to work for and bring about the transformation that can come after death when we trust God and are empowered by Christ’s Spirit of Love.
The wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” No matter what season of life we find ourselves in, or what current event is marking time for us today, God is with us in all seasons of life, Always and in All Ways.
I am looking forward to “gathering” with you in Body and in Spirit this weekend at our outdoor service and in our virtual services. Gathering Sunday gives us a fresh start and a new opportunity to mark time together as God’s people and as Easter Christians - as ones who always look toward Resurrection and Hope.
Gathered with you in God’s presence,