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Everyone else is, why not me? September 11th.


I will not be preaching this Sunday.  At least, barring flooding issues preventing flights in the Pennsylvania area on Saturday, I will not be preaching this Sunday.  I am being installed as the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.  Bishop Emeritus Paull Spring of the North American Lutheran Church will be preaching and leading worship through the Rite of Installation.

I have to confess that I was pleased to NOT have to preach this Sunday.  Not just because it has afforded me the opportunity to spend my time elsewhere this week, but because I dreaded the task of preaching on September 11th, 2011 – the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the attempted attack which was thwarted by brave passengers.

Several different directions have been proposed by preaching colleagues.  Some argue that other than a passing reference in the prayers and perhaps the sermon, that the day ought not be recognized – at least, not in terms of September 11th.  “Keep it as the 13th Day after Pentecost, that’s the liturgical date”.  There is something to be said for this approach – the Church probably shouldn’t have her liturgical calendar set by the secular world (Mother’s Day sermons, anyone?).  At the same time, to almost completely ignore the day will likely land the pastor and worship team in some hot water because failing to mention the day except in passing also fails to recognize that God does have something to say to and for us in times of tragedy.

I would also avoid making the day completely about September 11th.  No lining up of flags, no singing the national anthem, no pledge of allegiance for me, thank you very much.  We are here to worship God, to receive God’s gifts of Word & Sacrament; we are NOT here on Sunday morning to worship the United States of America.  It is not that I am against the pledge or the flag or the national anthem in general; but I do not believe they have their place during the Sunday morning worship service.    Have a separate worship perhaps; participate in local services of remembrance instead.

The texts for the day (for that matter, the past few weeks and into the following week) focus on forgiveness.  What a wonderful theme any time for the preacher – forgiveness is the foundation of Law & Gospel.  For what to do I need to be forgiven and who is doing the forgiving?  How do I forgive in the face of evil and how does God forgive?  All of these and more is what I would want to hear from my preacher on September 11th.

I have no idea how Bishop Spring will weave the day’s texts with an installation on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.  I do know that on that day I will set aside some time to reflect on the amazing power of God’s forgiveness, even when I struggle with forgiving others – or myself – He forgives.  May I love my enemy as myself; may I know as I have been known and love as I have been loved by Christ Jesus my Lord.


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