NOTE FROM PASTOR J R FOR 9/11 AND SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
Some things are just hard to believe. It’s hard to believe that same-sex marriage is becoming a reality in my lifetime. It’s also hard to believe this is the thirteenth anniversary of the tragic event we know simply by its date, 9-11. On September 11, 2001, nineteen members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and claiming nearly 3,000 lives. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C to target the White House. There were no survivors from any of the flights. Many of us were glued to our television screens and saw the collapse of the World Trade Center as it happened. It is a sight many of us will never forget.
This is a day that is very difficult for citizens of our country. Included among those 3,000 victims were 836 responders, firefighters and police personnel, who had come to rescue people from the terrorist attacks. The overwhelming majority of casualties in all four attacks were civilians, including nationals of over 70 countries.
There were many, many stories of incredible courage that came out of that tragic event. Since this week at Covenant we will be “Celebrating Love and Equality” I thought I’d share this one. It’s the most touching story of Jeremy Glick, a passenger on United Flight 93. Jeremy was the Sales and Marketing executive of a hot internet company. He was recently married and the proud father of a beautiful three-month-old daughter. He didn’t want to go on Flight 93. It was his first business trip in months. Since the birth of his daughter, Emmy, he had been reluctant to leave home. However, there was an important conference in San Francisco and his wife Lyzbeth urged him to go, and stop worrying about her and the baby. Not long after the flight was underway, Jeremy called Lyzbeth on his cell phone to report that five hijackers had taken over the plane. She was able to tell him about the plane crashes into the World Trade Center and later the Pentagon. Jeremy and several other passengers on that flight determined that they had to do something.
We presume that the passengers managed to carry out their intention because Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked planes that took no casualties on the ground. A group of persons literally gave their lives to save the lives of people they did not even know.
I am impressed with what Jeremy told Lyz during the twenty minutes they were able to talk before the plane went down. Interviewed on “Dateline,” Lyzbeth Glick shared the essence of her last conversartion of about 20 minutes before the plan went down: “We said I love you a thousand times over and over again, and it just brought so much peace to us,” says Lyzbeth . . . “He told me, ‘I love Emmy’ who is our daughter and to take care of her. Then he said, ‘Whatever decisions you make in your life, I need you to be happy, and I will respect any decisions that you make.’ That’s what he said and that gives me the most comfort. He sounded strong. He didn’t sound panicked, very clear headed. I told him to put a picture of me and Emmy in his head to be strong.”
A widow at 31, Lyz says she is not angry and she has no regrets. “I don’t feel like there are things left undone with my relationship with Jeremy,” says Lyz. “We did it all, and I don’t feel like I’ve left anything unsaid to him, and I don’t feel like he’s left anything unsaid to me. And I don’t think many people who are so young can say that.” No, they can’t. But it is sad that any young family in the world should be put through that ordeal.
As we prepare the “Celebrating of Love and Equality”, I can’t shake the thought that this was also the Sunday after 9/11. Reading the story of Jeremy and Lyzbeth brought some comfort. I also noticed that it said some important things to all of us about relationships and love. I encourage all of you who are married, legally by state standards or married in God’s sight only, to strive to leave nothing unsaid to each other. Live each day prayed up, said up, and caught up with each other. Of course, that alone is a great reason to learn “Why We Need to Forgive.”
As I read the lectionary gospel for this week, I was reminded that 9-11 is difficult for our country; and particularly difficult for Christians. It is either ironic or providential, depending on your theology that our lesson from the Gospel for this coming Sunday after 9/11 begins like this: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Yes, some things are still hard to believe! 9/11 is one of them! However, Lyzbeth Glick helps us to know we can get past the pain of 9/11, a particular difficult time for the Christian theology of forgivenesss. Join us this week at Covenant, the Sunday after 9/11, I hope we will learn a little more about “Celebrating Love and Equality And Why We Need To Forgive.” I will be preaching from Matthew 18:21-35.