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Rector's Reflections, September 10, 2021

Rector’s Reflections: Memory and Remembrance

Beloved Members of St. Martin's,

The most famous verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes, one of the Wisdom books of the Bible, begin with the observation, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." It continues, in the King James Version's poetry:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.

This is wisdom so celebrated that it was even made into an anthem in the 1950s by the American musical treasure Pete Seeger, and made into a hit in the midst of the 1960s when covered by the Byrds. I loved these verses so much I had a poster of these sentiments written in calligraphy in my dorm room and first apartment while I was in college.

Every year around this time, I think about these beautiful verses as I remember, exactly twenty years ago tomorrow, sitting in my classroom with news radio on during my planning period, because I always tried to find ways to relate the news of the day to the lessons planned in my US History classes I taught. In just minutes, we went from believing a small plane had accidentally flown into a New York skyscraper, to turning on the TV and seeing the recording of the second plane that hit the other tower. And then the plane that hit the Pentagon, and the plane that was taken back by passengers and staff and crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Some people, responded to this tragedy with hatred-- but hatred feeds hatred. We remember that this was an attack planned and executed in hatred, but here's another vital truth: that all the phone calls that day from those planes were phone calls expressing love. I remember how countries all over the world lost citizens in this attack, and how countries all over the world came together to support our country and offer their help. I remember interfaith prayer services held as proof of our common connection, our common unity, our common integrity and decency despite any surface differences that in the end, are the only truths that matter.

Many ask where God was during those terrible days and months. To me, there was God, rushing into the inferno, wearing uniforms, wearing street clothes, tending to the wounded, feeding and comforting the rescuers. There was God in every message of love telephoned to friends and loved ones. There was God leading people out of the Pentagon. There was God, kneeling over the fallen and taking them into God's embrace. There was God, taking the hand of those on Flight 93 and steadying their courage. God heard untold prayers, and God was in the prayers themselves.

It is easy to believe in God during times of blessing, but often it is most necessary to allow ourselves to rest within the embrace of God in times of tragedy and pain. The life of faith often encompasses suffering and grief. Faithful people are not insulated from tragedy. The difference is that we can find God there, with us, in our suffering. God is with us, even in desolation, listening as we cry out in grief or fear. God is with us, and suddenly the shifting sand becomes solid rock, for we are not alone, or bereft. God’s ear is inclined to us, and our cry is heard.

As we remember this terrible day, let us seek to re-member and embody the spirit of duty, love, unity, resilience, and compassion that continues to live on, these long years later.

A Prayer of Remembrance for September 11

Loving One, we put our trust in You,

for You are our shield and our rest,

ever-present in times of joy and sorrow.

We place before You

our remembrances of those who have left us:

may your peace and joy shine upon them.

Comfort those who mourn

and strengthen those who falter,

that they may know your healing presence.

We thank You for those

who are your hands, face, and feet in the world today:

make us more like them.

We thank You for the example of the brave,

who are daily willing to lay their lives on the line

for their brothers and sisters.

We thank you for the example of those

who embody compassion and healing

even in the face of chaos.

Guide us into ways of justice, benevolence, and truth,

that we may treat others as we wish to be treated.

Place the seal of your blessing, O God,

upon those we now remember to You by name.


In Christ,


(The image above is the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.)

A Personal Note

As most of you know by now, I was called in the middle of the day Wednesday by my 93-year-old Mom's physician, who was concerned about her after a lengthy phone conversation. The upshot was that we agreed that I needed to drive to Tulsa so that I could get her to the Urgent Care in time to be tested for COVID-19 that night. My mother's test came back positive.

We are grateful that Mom is fully vaccinated, so despite her positive results right now her illness has manifested relatively mild symptoms, and yesterday we were able to get her treated with the new monoclonal antibody injections. I will remain here in Tulsa keeping an eye on her (from across the house) for the next few days-- but her symptoms are already subsiding thanks to her vaccinated status, her swift treatment, her immense inner toughness, and a dedicated doctor who listened to his intuition. I am so grateful for the scientists and doctors and nurses who continue to work tirelessly to find ways to defeat this illness.

I am also grateful to all of you for your prayers for my Mom, Nina. She and I can feel the lift of your hearts bearing us through this latest setback. I am also so grateful that our new part-time priest, the Rev. Shug Goodlow, has been able to step into the breach for me and lead worship this weekend. God bless you all, and thank you for your support for my family.

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