I got home from work late last night early this morning around 2AM. It takes me sometime to unwind after a busy shift, so I usually spend an hour or so watching TV before hitting the sack. Today I flipped back and forth between two specials about 9-11 and the 10th Anniversary on CNN and MSNBC. Given that it has been 10 years since 9-11, it is amazing to me how vivid my memories of that day are. Watching both specials actually brought tears to my eyes several times. The emotions are still raw and watching those images — and interviews with survivors — brings me right back there.
I was on Young Life staff at the time and was down in Fairfield County that morning meeting with our regional team. It was actually while meeting with Mac (our regional director) and Jen (our regional administrator) that we watched on TV as the events unfolded live. Our region included not just NYC but also Long Island and CT. We knew as we watched that kids and families in our region would be directly effected by what we were watching. And we knew that our staff throughout the region would be called upon countless times that day and in the days to follow to offer pastoral care, hope, comfort and help to those they serve. I spend the rest of that week down there, helping with communications from the regional office to the field and from the field back out — with resources, updates, prayer requests, etc.
As I said, even 10 years later, the emotions connected to that day are strong.
I am not preaching any sermons tomorrow, but pastors across America will be. And many of those churches follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which sets out the readings for the day. On this 10th anniversary of 9-11, the Gospel reading is from Matthew 18:21-35 —
21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[ was brought to him.25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
I think it is interesting that we cannot avoid preaching about forgiveness on 9-11. And after 10 years, I think this is the right message for this day.