September 11 and a Terrible Joy

September 11 and a Terrible Joy

Marc, over at , posted a and its aftermath, now five years gone.

At the very least, whether it’s the day after or five years later, it comes down to how you have made a difference with the life and talents you were given. Have you loved deeply and given much? Can’t do anything about yesterday, today is a work in progress, and tomorrow holds out hope for something better. It’s up to us to grab that opportunity.


I’ve been reflecting on this as well, and commenting elsewhere about suffering and tragedy. So, Marc’s post prompted me to say more. And and I thought why not share my thoughts here, as well?

Unfortunately, George Barna says that five years after 9/11, its impact on church attendance and growth is virtually nonexistent.

We are far too ephemeral in our gratitude, and far too forgetful of our blessings. Great tragedies remind us of our wealth – even for those of us who are impoverished materially. The blessing of calamity is that were it not for chaos we would all suffer from “gratitude amnesia.”

That’s why communion, in my view, should be a celebration, not a maudlin wallowing in sorrow over Christ’s sacrifice. I understand the sorrow of communion. I just think it’s misplaced. The great cosmic tragedy of the cross and Jesus’ death upon it was turned upside down into the victorious joy of redemption for eternity. And through the gaping hole of the grave we now see light, joy forevermore, peace, and love as we have never known it but as a shadow here on earth.

This is the promise of Redemption: that in great suffering there is still great hope. That, in Christ, no calamity that befalls us is too great to withstand for we know that this valley of shadows is but a milestone on the road to eternity.

Cardinal O’Connor once took a great deal of heat for saying that the Holocaust was Judaism’s great gift to the world. I think only someone who has thought long about the cross and the resurrection and all they imply could possibly say that or believe this.

For a time, the destruction of the World Trade Center was terrorism’s unwitting gift to America. It seemed, if only for a few months, that the slumbering giant of grace, gratitude, and honor would awaken once more if only because staring at the empty New York City skyline reminded us of all that was good by proclaiming all that was lost.

But, oh how our memories fade.

Postscript: My wife and I were brought to speechlessness and tears again when watching recent 9/11 specials on TV — especially when watching the direct-to-video special, Flight 93. I simply cannot comprehend the loss these families suffered when their loved ones were used as missiles against fellow Americans. And I cannot grasp the suffering of the families who lost loved ones in the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers.

The greatest moment of emotion, for me, was the portrayal of Todd Beamer and the operator who led him in saying the Lord’s Prayer just before assaulting the terrorists. I felt a terrible joy that Todd’s faith was such that he found comfort, strength, and peace in repeating Jesus’ simple prayer. I felt joy, knowing what he and others would do would succeed in saving lives, and it was joy knowing that he would go on to his reward. Not a reward for martyrdom as the terrorists seem to believe, but the gift of eternity with Christ for a life of repentance under the Lordship of Christ. I also felt terror, knowing the loss his wife and children would soon experience, and the loved ones of everybody on that plane.

I am grateful for this terrible joy. I am grateful for awe. And I am grateful for the redemption bought by sacrifice.

May I not soon forget.


[tags]BlogRodent, september-11, 9-11, 9/11, terrorism, theodicy, sorrow, joy, suffering, tragedy, death, heaven, eternity, hope, todd-beamer, lisa-beamer, lords-prayer, sacrifice, redemption, communion, george-barna, cardinal-oconnor, holocaust[/tags]

One thought on “September 11 and a Terrible Joy

  1. Marc V

    I’ve read somewhere else about how people can reach beyond their normal limitations in time of crisis and display extreme focus with unconditional sacrifice (like Todd Beamer). You don’t know when your number will come up, you just pray that God will give you the strength to face whatever happens.

    Communion can be a conflict of emotions. You have the desire for holiness, a reverence for what you are partaking, a feeling of not-worthiness, and joy that the Lord was thinking of me for this meal. When Jesus told his disciples “One of you will betray me”, I can imagine how they all looked at each other with the same expression: NOT ME!? I have to be careful during communion to not wallow in the not-worthiness/wretched sinner thing, and turn to thankful joy and celebrate.

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