Twenty years ago, our nation was attacked in a cowardly act of violence against men, women, and children, that made no distinction between civilians and combatants. In the planes hijacked and buildings destroyed, 2,997 people were killed. At that time we vowed to never forget, and this weekend we honor those who lost their lives on that horrible day, but also those who have lost their lives in the twenty years since–even most recently in the airport attack at Kabul, where thirteen soldiers and upwards of ninety Afghan civilians were killed–tragically, and disgustingly, in the name of God. Can you imagine that God, the author of all life, might find any joy in his children’s suffering and pain? God mourned that day, and mourns still today when people act in violent ways, lying, hurting, and killing one another.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible…ALL things visible and invisible. God is the creator of ALL things, the author and sustainer of ALL life. We believe that in God ALL things are sustained, move, and have their being. To remember this is to think as God does. When we forget this, we begin to think as human beings do. That was Peter’s problem in today’s Gospel.
In one moment, Jesus says that God himself had revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ–the Son of God. To recognize Jesus as Lord is not of human origin, but of God. But in the very next moment, Peter is reprimanded by the Lord, and even referred to as Satan, for trying to be an impediment to Jesus’ mission to lay down his life, to reconcile sinners, and to save the world–and that mission continues on still today.
Each of us is called not only to recognize Jesus as Lord, but also to both announce and advance his kingdom on earth. If we call him Lord (which is good), but become an obstacle to life and love, forgiveness and healing, then we are not His at all, but are Satan. Satan knows Jesus, but doesn’t follow him or his teachings. Satan knows Jesus, but is an obstacle to God’s reign. And so are we when we engage in speaking ill of others, post hurtful and hateful things about others on social media, inflict violence and pain on others, are selfish or irresponsible with the resources God has given us for the good of ourselves and others, or are destructive and reckless with God’s creation; our water, air, earth and its creatures. And can you imagine doing any of these ugly things in the name of God?
I think that was the most shocking thing to me about 911. Like you, I remember just where I was when the planes crashed and the twin towers fell. But I was even more shocked to see people celebrating death and praising God as it occurred, as though God was pleased with violence and hate. And that’s why we must never forget. We must never forget that the one who endures in love to the end will be saved. We must never forget if we want to follow Jesus we must take up our cross and follow him. We must never forget that if we want to save our life we must lose it, and that whoever loses their life for his sake and the Gospel will save it.
We do not hate in response to hate, we love. We cannot advance a kingdom of love and truth while acting in a way that opposes the Gospel of Jesus. My brothers and sisters, we cannot claim Jesus, but act like Satan in our words and dealings with others, at work, at school, or on social media. Either we follow him 24-7 or we do not follow at all–a point my wife reminds me of often. We must say with Isaiah, “The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I shall not be put to shame.”
911 isn’t just not-forgetting those who died, it is also about never forgetting that in God’s name we love. In God’s name we forgive. In God’s name we promote life and truth, and in that way we act not like human beings do, but instead we think and act like God does. May we never forget. // Please allow a moment of silence for those that died.