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Saturday, September 10, 2011

My comments in worship on the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Today is Patriot Day, a day set aside for remembering the 9/11 attacks and of course today is the 10th anniversary of that awful day. The day provides a great opportunity for us to honor first responders, those who run into places and situations from which most of us run away. That day changed all of us individually and collectively, I think it’s fair to say, it changed the world. I suspect that over those days, we all felt a little less invincible, a little more wary, but I also remember great determination. It was a horrific day for everyone, but certainly more so for those who lost loved ones. But as God specializes in doing, he takes the absolute worst man has to offer and uses it for good. Perhaps many have forgotten the lessons of 9/11. I don’t claim to know them all and won’t attempt to list them, but I will mention one tipped off to me today in a blog post by John Piper. There he quoted C.S. Lewis who said that a time of war causes all to be more aware of death. That may seem morbid, but its actually very wise to have that awareness. We rarely have greater clarity about what matters in life than when we are at a funeral. It’s then that we remember what matters and what doesn’t. Most of the time we try to pretend that everything will always go on as it is now. But its not wise to live that way, because its not true. What is mature is to live life fully aware that everything we hold dear will one day change. The only way to face such a life with peace and joy is through a rock solid faith in the God who sees the end from the beginning.

John Piper quoted heavily from C.S. Lewis words on this subject in his blog post Saturday. I quote his entire post below. 
C. S. Lewis's words from his classic essay “Learning in War-Time," written during World War II, captured some of the powerful effect 9/11 had on those of us living half a century later. There is no question of death or life for any of us, only a question of this death or of that — of a machine gun bullet now or a cancer forty years later.  What does war do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased. It puts several deaths earlier, but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear. Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many years we have behind us.  Does it increase our chances of a painful death? I doubt it. As far as I can find out, what we call natural death is usually preceded by suffering, and a battlefield is one of the very few places where one has a reasonable prospect of dying with no pain at all.  Does it decrease our chances of dying at peace with God? I cannot believe it. If active service does not persuade a man to prepare for death, what conceivable concatenation of circumstances would?  
Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. 
The only reason why the cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them. War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right. 
All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centred in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us knows. 

We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it.

 The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses  [New York: HarperCollins, 1949], 61-62, paragraphing added.


  1. Holding death near without being preoccupied with or fascinated by it ought to assist love in casting out fear: fear of living and dying.

  2. That's a good statement and a huge challenge, to live with an awareness of death, without being preoccupied by it. Your statement reminds me of Ecclesiastes 7:2 (ESV)
    2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
    for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.