Twenty Years After the Twin Towers
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
I am not sure but I think that those of us who were around and of an age to realise what had happened could tell you where we were and what we were doing when we heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
I suspect that the same can be said of us knowing where we were when we heard, 20 years ago, of the attacks on what has come to be known as 9/11.
I can tell you that I had been in Kettering meeting with a priest there in preparation for going to minister to the Arawak people in the rain forest in Venezuela. As I left in the early afternoon I switched on the car radio and at first I thought I was listening to a radio play.
When I arrived home we sat and watched on television the unfolding events.
We know what happened then and we know that 2977 people were killed, I knew the close of relations of two of them. We know what happened subsequently.. Within less than a month President Bush with a coalition from other countries including the UK launched what was called Operation Enduring Freedom to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan and manage to remove the group from power within two months.
Osama bin Laden thought to be the brains behind the attack was hunted and killed nearly ten years later.
In 2014, some 13 years after the invasion of Afghanistan NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ended combat operations in Afghanistan and transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government but continued to back up that government’s continued fight against the Taliban.
Six years later the US and Taliban signed a peace deal, offically known as the Agreement for bringing Peace to Afghanistan, or the Doha agreement as that is where it was signed. This required the US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan within 14months as long as the Taliban did not allow terror groups to ’threaten the security of the US or its allies’.
Gradually US troops were pulled from Afghanistan, the last leaving just two seeks ago on 30th August after 20 years, 457 deaths of UK service personnel, 2455 deaths of US service personnel and more than 46,000 civilians killed. There are many more who were injured.
I have sat with those who have tended to the mortal remains of those killed in Afghanistan and I have heard their stories and their traumas.
We sit and watch our televisions and are upset by the scenes we see, we are appalled by what we see and hear the Taliban doing. How can anyone do that to people? How can a regime like the Taliban do it? Compel people to live in the way THEY dictate. And yet if we go back in Christian history we meet the Inquisition which happened in the 12th and following centuries. The appalling treatment of Christian to fellow Christian because they did not act/think/behave as the dictatorship of the church demanded.
Or think of the priest holes that we look at in visiting old houses, where Roman Catholic priests hid from persecution.
We don’t have to go very far geographically or timewise to find that today fundamentalism, people making others do what they think the scripture says in the eyes of leaders, exists and forces people into a mould not of God’s making but of human interpretation which does not allow for the individual personality and response to the gospel because they are afraid.
The Church of England did not allow women to be priests until 1994 and no woman could be a bishop until 2014. And yet we are all children of God, but we all get it wrong at times.
Peter didn’t like what Jesus said about the fact that he was going to suffer and be put to death and rise again. I wonder if Peter didn’t hear that about rising again? Certainly didn’t understand it, how could he? Rising from the dead! That just didn’t happen, but the suffering and death, that couldn’t happen to someone like Jesus. And Jesus says, You are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do. I wonder how often that is true of us.
Jesus had asked his disciples who people thought he was and the answer was John the Baptist and Elijah or one of the prophets. The ordinary people were recognising in Jesus something that set him aprt, something that meant they saw something from God in him.
But who do you say I am? He asked and Peter spoke up ‘You are the Christ’ All the meaning behind that – You are the anointed one, you are the Messiah, you are the one foretold by the prophets, the one we have all been waiting for.
To the people Jesus said that if we wish to be a follower of his we have to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. We have to give up our own self importance ‘I know what is right this is the only way’ opinion and follow his way. Nothing else will be worth anything.
Now this has all been a ramble, a reminder of the last 20 years history in one part of the world that has affected the whole world, in doing so it may help some understanding of part of our current news programmes. It has been a reminder again that fundamentalism in any form, in any religion, is dangerous and destructive .
Fundamentalism can prevent each one of us from being the whole and beautiful and loving person that God wants us to be. It has I hope challenged us to focus on Jesus and his teachings because it is through Jesus that we see God. There hasn’t been much theology except the most important, those words spoken by Peter to Jesus. You are the Messiah.
I end with words written by Godfrey Rust.
After the accounting of the dead,
when the insurance claims are settled,
and the markets are back to their normal jittery selves,
we have all seen what Hell looks like. In future
we will avoid tall buildings, slowly move away
from cities, fly less often, view
our fellow passengers with circumspection
seek refuge in more virtual reality and trade
within the safer evils of the internet.
We listen doubtfully to our leaders’ words
as they struggle to fill their own shoes.
Four planes just flew out of Pandora’s box:
and when men armed with razor blades can bring
the whole wide world up to a juddering halt
we know too much and care too little
to believe that this will be the last time.
The big game of Monopoly is over.
The losers’ tantrums have become too dangerous.
Even before our anger cools we see
the moral high ground is just
a pile opf smoking rubble. Jesus kneels
and writes with his index finger in
the white dust of Manhattan:
Let him who is without sin
launch the first missile.
Who is our enemy
and what can we fight him with?
Where are our allies? Where was God
on September the Eleventh? He was begging
in old clothes in the subway
beneath the World Trade Centre.
He was homeless in Gaza,
imprisoned in Afghanistan,
starving in Somalia,
dying of Aids in an Angolan slum,
suffering everywhere in this fast-shrinking world;
and boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston,
heading for a meeting on the 110th floor.
When the time came he stretched his arms out
once again to take
the dreadful impact that would pierce his side,
his last message on his fading cell phone
once more to ask forgiveness for them all, before
his body fell under the weight of so much evil.
We bring our cameras to his massive tomb
for any chance of resurrection, now we know
the kind of story that it really is,
united by this common enemy,
sin’s terrorism, that we never dreamed
could bring such devastation. This is war.
We line our weapons up: faith, hope, obedience,
the explosive power of love.