9-11 and the question of vulnerability

This morning I was extra proud of my wife, Sue. Next May 27th, we’ll have been married 50 years. And I’ve never been more proud of her!

In our Christian worship service today she was interviewed by Chaplain Steve Peterson of the Whispering Pines Chapel where we attend when here in Colorado’s high country near the YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch campus. Steve asked Sue to share her thoughts and feelings, and faith, as regards her experience of 9-11.  This was the sermon.

So why ask Sue?

Because her younger and extra close sibling, Chuck Jones, was a passenger on American Airlines flight #11 from Boston to LA where he was working on a business project. It was that flight, 9-11-01, that would hit the first (north) tower of the World Trade Center, touching off what is now referred to as America’s war on terror.

Sue told of her own terror that day upon learning that her brother was one of the first victims. She laid out her vast array of honest emotions. Total authenticity. Total vulnerability. She told what it was like for her then, over the last 15 years hence, and the things that have hurt her as well as helped her along the way.

One thing about grief, as you may well know from your own past experience, is that the stage called “acceptance” means you accept that it will never really end. There is not closure. Only acceptance that we can go on living even without closure. Closure after a wound like 9-11 for all concerned is merely a want to, not a have to. Going on with life anyhow is our “have to.” Forgiveness is only partial closure. The incision is closed but the staples can never be removed. The fracture heals but the arthritis never goes away, for all you old geezers like me who get what I mean.

So I’m thinking today about human vulnerability more than usual, I suppose. Thinking of how it makes us human. How it makes us relatable. How it makes us acceptable.  And it crosses my mind that the USA has never had more friends around the globe than we had after our day of greatest vulnerability ever.  On 9-11-2001.   We were never more relatable. Never more acceptable. Canada to the north. Mexico to the south. Nations east and west. They loved us. They were more proud of us than ever before!!

Because. We. Were. Vulnerable.

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Yet, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian churches about his own vulnerabilities and about God’s Spirit within him offering these words of reassurance in II Corinthians 12:9-1, “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

So what do you suppose the church universal might learn from all this?

Could it be that the world is waiting for the church to reveal our vulnerability for a change? To get off our high horses, admit our hypocrisies, our hubris, our “I’m right and you’re wrong about God, the Bible, etc. etc. etc.” and get on with the acceptance that we are, after all, only human? Could it be that the world (and for too many Christians the USA is the whole world) we think has “turned away from God” has really turned toward God quite well?  And together with God is waiting for us to simply start removing the log in our own eyes as self-identified believers in Christ? Could it be those we accuse of being secular are simply waiting, and waiting, and still waiting for us to be honest and authentic for once in our lives? Could the world be watching with a justifiable smirk when one of our “family values” preachers is taken to prison for sexual rape of a minor?   Or one of our anti-gay-sanctity-of-marriage  pastors is divorced on grounds of adultery?   Could humble pie be the largest slice of our proudest piety?

Jesus made himself vulnerable in front of an audience that saw this mostly naked man writhing in pain, in tears, in agony while on the cross he far more than hinted we, too, must take up if we would be saved. So what’s stopping you and me from being his followers?  From being saved?  From being vulnerable?   And from actually making a positive difference in this world?


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