The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States offers both a challenge and a blessing for area clergy.
Since the anniversary falls on a Sunday, a time when pastors and ministers speak about what's on their heart, it's a difficult subject to ignore. And since the tragedy is a decade in the rear-view mirror, the timing offers perspective.
With that in mind, I asked several Chattanooga-area clergy members whose sermon titles indicated they were speaking on the subject to offer a bit of their thinking:
"Let us remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, failed to destroy us. They did not diminish our compassion for others, [they] did not take from us our ability to love, [or] to heal or to gather together as a loving faith community. And in the aftermath of that tragic day, we have been given the opportunity to demonstrate our deepest religious values.
"True strength lies not in our ability to destroy
our enemies, but in the sometimes difficult choice to turn away from violence and hatred. I believe that every day we choose to stand on the side of love is a day of victory. Instead of hatred, let kindness direct our actions. Instead of vengeance, let compassion be our show of strength."
-- The Rev. Jeff Briere, Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga
"The sermon title, 'Healing for the Past and Hope for the Future,' sums up what I'm trying to say. Nine-eleven obviously was a terrible wound for America. There is still a great deal of pain we all feel. The only way to move beyond it is forgiving those who did this. ... [Since then], I think we've lost part of our vision. We need to get back to the right course -- of being a united people, of living up to the best traditions of justice for all. We need to get back to being who we really are -- not a force but a force of example."
-- The Rev. Dave Brown, Pilgrim Congregational Church
"This week it just so happens the [lectionary] Gospel reading is Matthew 18:21-35, the famous '70 times seven' passage on forgiveness. As we, quite rightly, pause, reflect, and honor both the dead and the living victims and heroes of the horror of 9/11, how does the Lord's teaching on forgiveness fit into the scenario? That's difficult stuff indeed. And so we will grapple with it."
-- The Rev. Cliff Hudson, First Cumberland
"My content will be the horror of that awful day, the strength seen when Americans come together, and the strength we gained then and in difficult times [that comes] from an all-powerful heavenly Father, based on Psalm 46."
-- Dr. Richard Mason, Brainerd Hills
"Where was God? This is an old question, a question that people of little faith and great faith ask in times of trial and disaster, from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, but even back to the very beginning. ...
"Where was God the Tuesday morning 10 years ago? I believe he was there holding those buildings up much longer then they should have stood. A woman recounted that she stood near the twin towers for an hour and half as streams and streams of people poured out. There would have normally been 50,000-plus people working there that morning. ... And so more people lived that day than died that day.
"... God is always with us, through the good, bad, and terror of this life, and even through death for our eternal life."
-- The Rev. Mark McCrory, First Lutheran Church
"As a post-9/11 people, we have two choices: We can either look at the present condition of the world as the worst thing that has ever happened here or the greatest opportunity that the church has ever had. We can decide to continue our suffering by holding hatred and anger in our hearts, or we can let go and open our hearts to the loving, healing forgiveness of God, asking Jesus to give us his forgiveness so we can forgive others. This 9/11, let's establish a new legacy, a legacy of forgiveness."
-- The Rev. Clair Sauer, Grace United Methodist Church, Fairview UMC