SEPTEMBER 11, 2011
The Very Reverend Donald W. Krickbaum
MICAH 4:1-5 – MATTHEW 5:1-12
But something else happen at that time, something that did not go unnoticed. Throughout the remainder of that terrible day and the immediate days following, people were streaming into the Cathedral and other churches and places of worship all over the country. We had several special services and the place was packed. It was just the next day after September 11, 2001, or the following day, that a reporter from the Miami Herald called and asked me why so many people were flocking to the churches since that terrible terrorist attack on our country. I paused a second, surprised by the question, but realizing the importance of what she was asking, I said, “Why, where else would we go?” She said, “But where was God when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were struck, and the plane went down in Pennsylvania?” Without a pause, I answered, “God was right there in the Twin Towers, and in the Pentagon, and onboard those planes.” God is, indeed, present with us in every moment and instinctively people knew they needed to seek God’s presence and to find strength from one another in those dark days.
As the prophet Micah wrote, “. . . the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains . . . People shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the house of God.’” [Micah 4:1-5] The music this evening speaks profoundly to what is taking place here in this House of God. A pupil of Faure [Nadia Boulanger] spoke of the impact of the Requiem: “No external effect detracts from its sober expression of grief: no disquiet or agitation disturbs its profound meditation, no doubt tarnishes its unassailable faith, its quiet confidence, its tender and peaceful expectation.” As a friend said to me, “We do not always understand, but we still implore, ‘Pie Jesu Domine.’”
Tragedies, violence, disasters, pain, suffering, or terrorism, are not God’s action, nor God’s punishment (like one of the erstwhile presidential candidates suggested the other day), nor God’s will. God is not the author of pain or suffering. No! Absolutely not! Nor has God forgotten us (even though it may seem like it, at times), but, rather, God is in the midst of it all – good times and bad – God is in the present moment. God is present with the victims of wretched storms, catastrophic illnesses, spiritual, mental, and physical suffering, holding us all very closely. God says, “I AM.”
We often try to find a reason for what goes on. Sometimes it is just easier to blame it on God. There is a story about Saint Teresa of Avila, probably apocryphal, that while riding in her carriage they came to a stream they had to ford. As they crossed, the carriage flipped over and tossed Teresa into the icy water. She is said to have looked up and said, “God, if this is the way you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few.”
Obviously, there is much we simply do not understand, but let me tell you what I do know. What I do know is the reality of the presence of God at all times and in all places. Even in our fears, pain and suffering, God is! There lies our faith, our confidence, and our hope and expectation of which we sing tonight.
All people of faith and people whose faith is very marginal, even those who have lost their faith or have no faith at all, come to a time when they question where to turn -- seeking answers for those things for which there seems to be no answer – all of those “whys.” Our real need, realized at the time or not, is to find the grace and comfort of the companionship of each other and to be in the presence of that which is Holy. That is what was going on in those days following 9/11. The heart of what we are about is to be a community of faith and love which exists solely in the reality that God is in the midst of our lives.
Micah, said, “. . . God shall arbitrate between many peoples and strong nations, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Jesus. [Matthew 5:1-12] Obviously, we have yet much to learn. Saint Paul said, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection . . . Serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers . . . Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly . . . if [there are those who] are hungry, feed them . . . overcome evil with good.” [Romans 12:1-8]
Our commitment as a people of God, is all about the importance of mutual respect, personal commitment, renewal, and reaching out to others, built on this primary ethic – LOVE. This foundation will drive us into the world where God is and where God desires us to touch the lives of those who hunger and thirst in any manner. Let’s remember, always, that the standard for our life together is to live with FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE – prophetic faith, reconciling hope, and loving care.
A biography of Bishop John Hines, who was a great, prophetic, and controversial Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was entitled, Granite on Fire, which is wonderfully descriptive of the man. That is exactly the way the church should be described – “granite on fire” – a rock of faith that catches fire with the power of the Holy Spirit; a place to stand where hope is not some vague wishing, but a solid foundation on which we may always count on God; and where we, above all else, come to know God’s love and to live in that love with one another.
We have not always gotten it right, but it does mean that is the road we must travel. This love is the willingness to let God be at the heart of our life together, forming all of our actions, our decisions, the use of our resources, our care not only for one another and those we like, but even our enemies, not allowing evil to rule our hearts, but to conquer evil with good.This means that we always seek to contribute to the needs of the life of all people everywhere, and that we, as a community of faith, are called to be a radically hospitable and sacred place for all to enter and find God.