We began our service on Sunday with a time of silence to take notice of the darkness of the day. It was the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, and I invited anyone to come forward and light a candle on our Communion table during the silence. I expected only a few people to come forward, but as I watched the aisles fill with worshipers, I realized I had not put out enough candles. So I went back to my office, grabbed thirty more candles, and placed them beside our improvised candle-holder.
The silence was held much longer than I would have imagined. People were very somber coming forward, remembering where they were that morning, holding the pain very close and acknowledging how things have changed for us.
The candles were seated in a bed of sand in a plastic gardening container, and the light they all produced was pretty spectacular. It reminded me that darkness can sometimes lead to light, and I remembered the way that our nation bonded together during the months directly following 9/11. Somehow neighbors felt closer to each other; faith communities strengthened with people returning to church; and a genuine feeling of deep patriotism rose out of the rubble of the Twin Towers, the crashed remains of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, and the gaping hole left in the Pentagon building.
All those candles burned very hot, and melted quite quickly, leading to the plastic gardening container catching on fire and beginning to melt onto the Communion table. Unfortunately, the table was also covered with a plastic protector, which also caught on fire and began to melt. Luckily, the fire was put out just as quickly, and nobody was hurt.
The fire did leave a small burn on the Communion table though. Perhaps we will leave it as a reminder that none of us are perfect — we all bear scars, and those scars make us who we are. Flawed, scarred, but still able to provide service to our God.
As this week has progressed I have begun to imagine some new meaning from our slight emergency on Sunday morning. I said earlier that the light that arose out of the darkness of 9/11 was a new a deeper intimacy in our country, the incredible growth of faith communities, and a renewed and deeper sense of patriotism. My metaphor is that, like all the candles we lit on Sunday, some of the light from 9/11 seemed to burn out rather quickly as well. Look at our country only 15 years later — neighbors scarcely know or acknowledge each other, nationwide church membership and attendance is returning to the all-time low it was at pre-9/11, and patriotism has become something more divisive than unifying with the ridiculous mess we’ve created in our political arena.
How did that bright light of intimacy and hope burn out so quickly? Granted, it’s been 15 years, but our pain is still so present, how can it be that the light is not? When we let that pain and darkness be felt and remembered, we must also pay tribute to the light, hoping to rekindle it rather than extinguish it.
My charge to you is to rekindle the light that came out of 9/11 without letting it burn out this time. Go out into your neighborhood and meet people; renew your commitment to your faith community; and remember with pride the love and hope that so many heroes exhibited on 9/11, and which so many of our soldiers (more than 14,000 deaths, for details go here ) have given their lives for.
We turned from the darkness of 9/11 to the present and very bright light of our children on Sunday morning. We had so many wonderful visitors on Sunday who had come to have their backpacks blessed. There was palpable energy in the entire church!
The remainder of the service (after the 9/11 Remembrance) was geared toward children, with a Prayer of Confession that involved a white board and drawings of “icky” things that fill up our hearts. It was a neat visual lesson that the waters of baptism wash all that icky stuff away.
Rather than a sermon, we had an extended “Time for Young Disciples” that taught about the “Whole armor of God” as found in Eph 6:10-20. My message to the students gathered is that we spend too much time worrying about what we are wearing to school — about what is on the outside. What we need to be more concerned about is what’s going on inside. Here are the ways I asked the students to get ready for school each day:
The Helmet of Salvation: when you’re brushing your hair, look in the mirror and remember that you are a beloved Child of God.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: when you put on your backpack, remember that you need to protect your heart and keep it clean, and remember that God’s love can help soften the blows of mean words and bullying.
Shoes fit to spread the Gospel of Peace: when you tie your shoes remind yourself that you are going to be a peace maker instead of a trouble maker.
The Sword of Truth: when you are buckling your belt, imagine you are pulling out a sword and say, “I will be truthful!”
These words are not just true for our children, but true for everyone of us. If were as concerned with “wearing” the whole armor of God everyday as we are about the clothes we put on, we would have a much different view of the day!
Following our service there was SO MUCH LIGHT at our first-ever Fall Festival. Many hands worked many hours to bring this celebration to fruition. Special thanks go to Karin & Krista Conrad, Sue Perkins, Tara Walker and family, and Laura Veenstra. We had games, face-painting, cotton-candy, a delicious smorgasbord of brats and picnic food, and an adorable S’mores station! It was a great celebration, and even though some wind blew through and knocked down our tents and bike parade route, there was plenty of fun to be had.
Our facebook page has pictures galore, and we have decided this should be an annual event! We’d love your feedback on the day if you were here, so please consider dropping me a note to let me know what you thought about the Fall Festival, the Blessing of the Backpacks, and anything else that comes to mind.
May you bask in the light of hope that does shine ever so brightly around us, and may it fill your heart with enough warmth that you can spread that to others.
In Christ’s Light,