Progressive Christian Channel
Texts of Terror and Transformation: A 9/11 Sermon
Deuteronomy 9:11: "And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, the tables of the covenant."
The people of the Bible—including you and I—are a people to be ruled by laws, not by the whims of tyrants or mobs. Laws that have a life beyond any one generation, laws that command more respect than the fleeting urges of rulers or even of voters. Something to think about long and hard, something to remember soberly as we experience an overwhelming temptation to bend the civil rights laws of this country in our passionate rush to lock up anybody who might be suspected of involvement in terrorism. Time to remember Moses on the mountain, with those precious legal tablets that would set the people of Israel apart, and make such a precious and enduring contribution to the advancement of civilization.
1 Kings 9:11: "...and Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timber and gold, as much as he desired, King Solomon gave to Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee."
Solomon got so carried away with building a fancy temple and capital in Jerusalem that he ran out of money and had to sell part of the country to a neighboring king to help finance his projects. Sound familiar? As we look back at recent events, think Enron. Think massive tax cuts for the rich at the same time that regular folks are losing their jobs and that local governments are being pinched to provide services for people in need. Think misplaced national priorities. Different millennium, same old story, eh?
Ecclesiastes 9:11: "Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all."
Thank you, Ecclesiastes! For reminding us of the ancient wisdom that Jesus knew so well, too. That the rain falls on the righteous and the wicked alike. That there was a terrible but in some way reassuring equality in the way that disaster fell on the rich and poor alike on 9/11. Janitors, firefighters, secretaries, and business moguls died alike. We are all dust, and to dust we shall return. 9/11 can be a reminder to us of our humble place in the grand order of things.
Isaiah 9:11: "So the LORD raises adversaries against them, and stirs up their enemies."
Jeremiah 9:11: " I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant."
Daniel 9:11: "All Israel has transgressed thy law and turned aside, refusing to obey thy voice. And the curse and oath which are written in the law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him."
Hosea 9:11: "E'phraim's glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!"
These passages typify the woes and curses that the prophets railed against Israel and its often corrupt elites. It reminds us to ask ourselves: to what extent are we responsible for the conditions that created the terrorists? Not that we are to blame for 9/11, but certainly we need to look at our nation's contributions to the cultural and political and economic conditions that bred this awful menace to the world. And after we heed the call of the prophets, we need to take action as citizens and as a nation to deal vigorously for a peaceful resolution of the conditions that breed terror.
Jim Burklo is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor who serves as the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. He is the author of "Birdlike and Barnless: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians" (2008) and "Open Christianity: Home by Another Road" (2000). Jim regularly blogs at ProgressiveChristianity.org.