In just a little more than one week, we will observe the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I suspect anyone school age or older in 2001 remembers vividly that beautiful Tuesday morning and the shattering blast of violence and death that changed everything. There was a great deal of spiritual reflection and prayer that was spurred by the events of 9/11. Below are some of my thoughts in the week immediately following the terrorist attacks (reprinted from The Messenger, September 17th, 2001):
It is amazing what a difference a few minutes can make in the life of an entire nation – how quickly things can change. The World Trade Center buildings in New York City took years to plan and years to construct. They were reduced to rubble in less than an hour. And, of course, the priceless lives of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks represent thousands of years of cumulative experience, wisdom, knowledge and love. Their lives ended so cruelly and abruptly that it’s almost beyond imagination. There is no value that can be attached to what was lost in one short hour last Tuesday morning.
In preparing for my sermon this past Sunday, I ran across an article that described two of the artist Rodin’s sculptures displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first piece is titled “The Hand of God,” in which a strong and sensitive hand works a lump of clay, fashioning a man and woman out of the lifeless, chaotic mass. The second piece is called “The Hand of the Devil.” What is interesting is that the hands are essentially the same in each sculpture. But where the hand of God is fashioning form out of the lump of clay, the hand of the devil is idly working it, continually destroying any shape that appears. The clay continues to exist only as a meaningless lump. It remains a chaotic mass of nothing.
I believe the hand of God is at work in creation now, as always, gently bringing forth order out of chaos and life out of death. But the events of the past week make it clear there are other forces at work as well. It is indeed a cruel irony that what took years or even lifetimes to create could be destroyed in such a short time.
But while chaos may sometimes seem to be the order of the day, we can be assured God’s gentle hands have never been taken off our world. We can be assured even as things are broken and destroyed, the hand of God is already reshaping and remolding the chaos once again into order and life. Ultimately, we know God’s creative power and love can never be thwarted or defeated.
In the last week, we have witnessed unbelievable destruction. In the months and years ahead, I believe we will also see the hand of God at work in our nation and the world. We have an opportunity now to join our hands with God in the work that has to be done. It will require patience and compassion and love. But we are singers of life, co-creators with God and witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ – and that makes all the difference.