Remembering 9/11 – Sermon Pentecost 13

I don’t usually post or present my sermons online or anywhere else other than in the Church or for the congregation they were written for, but I have decided to post my most recent sermon here. Given that the topic for this particular sermon is of such a wide reaching nature I thought it would be nice to share it. I will share the transcript below but for those of you who don’t have the time to read it I will post the video of my sermon. If nothing else, the video at least shows what a beautiful Whare Karakia (Church) Te Karaiti is.

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord my rock and my redeemer. AMEN.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Our reading this morning continues the theme, and subject of this part of Matthew’s Gospel, namely that of living in community.  Our gospel reading last week gave us ways in which we can resolve conflict within the community and within the Church and this week we continue that theme with a teaching on forgiveness.

Peter asks Jesus, ‘If someone sins against me how many times should I forgive them?’ Being Peter, he thinks he knows the answer and proposes 7. Here Jesus rebukes him and says, not seven, but seventy seven. Jesus then goes on to illustrate his point through the parable of the unforgiving servant.

Jesus’ command to not forgive someone 7 times, but 77 isn’t a literal command but rather says to us that we should always offer and be prepared to offer forgiveness. Not once, or twice or even seven times, but as many times as is necessary for that forgiveness to be taken. This means that as followers of Christ we are called to always be ready to offer forgiveness. We are called to always have our hands stretched out in forgiveness in the real hope that someone will accept it.

Every generation has it’s ‘news flash’ moments. Events that happen in our lifetimes that, no matter how old or young we are we can remember where we were and what we were doing. For my Dad, it was the landing on the moon. He had just left Primary School and was in 3rd form at high school in Gisborne. For my Mum, it was in 1977, she was 21 and Elvis Presley had just passed away. For me it was when I was 13, in 3rd form at Cashmere High School. I had PE for my first period this particular day and when I was getting changed my friend said to me, ‘have you heard? Someone has just bombed America.’

Today is September 11 2011 – the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and in churches all over the world there is a debate going on. Church leaders, ministers and preachers are wondering what they should do. Should they acknowledge this day? Should they ignore it? Should they just have a prayer and then move on with the karakia? Whanau, here, this morning we do acknowledge what happened on this day 10 years ago. We remember those who died; the passengers on the planes, the workers at the World Trade Centre, the people at the Pentagon, all those who died, we remember them. And with their loved ones we also reflect on the past 10 years.

The readings we do each Sunday here at Te Karaiti and at all Anglican Churches across the world come from this book, the lectionary. I am not sure who puts it together and who chooses the readings, but the readings for this morning, especially the Gospel are very helpful as we remember and reflect on the events of 9/11 and how the world has changed, if at all because of what happened on this day 10 years ago.

For the last 10 years America and several other nations around the world have been involved in a ‘War on Terror.’ This War on Terror was America’s response to the attacks of 9/11. Our gospel this morning is helpful in reflecting on the War on Terror and America’s response to 9/11. Where did this response come from? What was the foundation for this reaction? In light of our reading it seems that America may have been touch brash in their response to 9/11. Our reading this morning calls us all to forgiveness. The hard part here is, if America didn’t respond in the way it did then would we be better or worse off here and now, 10 years on. To be honest, I don’t know, but what I do know is that forgiveness doesn’t invade a country, forgiveness doesn’t launch a war, forgiveness doesn’t imprison people without trial, forgiveness doesn’t kill.

What we need to remember about 9/11 is that it didn’t happen in isolation. America wasn’t the only place in the world to change forever that day, nor were they the only people who would feel the pains of terrorism and war, no, the War on Terror ensured that scores of other innocent people would also experience the horrors of war. It is 10 years on and the people of America are beginning to return to some sort of normality. The rebuilding and creation of a memorial at Ground Zero are going well with the latter all but completed, people are starting to move around New York with more ease and most people aren’t nearly as nervous about flying as they were 5 years ago. But what about in the Middle East and Afghanistan? What about those innocent people who live in the countries where this War on Terror is playing out? It is important that here and now, 10 years on we remember them, those who continue to suffer as their homes and lives are torn apart by the ongoing war on terror, just as much as we remember those who died on 11th September 2001.

The real hard part about preaching on a day like today isn’t that I am scared I might say the wrong things, it isn’t that I am worried I may offend some  people, it isn’t even the fact that Matua Hone is sitting at the back giving my sermon a score out of 10. The real hard part is that while this day, 9/11, is a day of sadness and tragedy; we know that right outside our doors is a community that needs healing, a community that needs love, a community that needs forgiveness.  While thousands upon thousands of people died in the events of 9/11, and while that is a tragedy of epic proportions, we need to remember that here, in Mangere and in communities all across Aotearoa and the world; people are suffering and dying needlessly every day. It was just last week that Matua Hone himself was in the Herald speaking out against issues of child poverty.

As Christians, it is part of our calling to condemn anything that brings about suffering, from child poverty to hopelessness to war and unnecessary death in any form it takes. By virtue of our calling we are commanded to preserve life and ensure that its innate dignity is protected. Today is a reminder to us that we need to continually use our voices to condemn the ongoing War on Terror. America’s response to answer violence with violence was, simply put, the wrong one. Here this morning, our Gospel reading and our calling to follow Christ tells us how to respond to situations like these. We are called to respond from a place of love, a place of concern and perhaps most importantly, a place of forgiveness. True forgiveness demands that we don’t attach conditions or ultimatums, but rather offer freedom and wholeness. True forgiveness comes without any strings attached and is offered fully. Even when it seems that our offer of forgiveness is declined or goes unanswered we must respond to Jesus’ command to forgive seventy times seven if need be.

And so I leave you with those thoughts in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

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