Friday, September 12, 2008

Yesterday at the September 11 ceremony in our town, we honored not only all the victims of the terrorist attacks but in particular a local firefighter who died while trying to save others.  As the pastor of that firefighter, I was asked to say the prayer at the ceremony -- as I have for years now.  This is what I said.

The prayer I offer to today as we remember the terrorist attacks of 9/11 is a little different, but the  current atmosphere in our country begs for something different.  I offer it in hope and trust in God’s grace and love for us all.

This morning, in my bible reading, I read about Joseph and Pharoah in Egypt.  If you don’t know it, Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but earns his freedom by interpreting Pharaoh’s troubling dreams.  He predicts seven years of plenty before seven years of famine and is put in charge of the kingdom to prepare for the hard times ahead.  When famine hits, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt seeking help.

Joseph could have punished his wicked brothers.  He had the power.  Instead, he forgave them and fed them.  They were united once again.

I mention this because it has been seven years since we entered into our own season of famine.  Like those brothers, we are hungry, not for food but for a sense of peace in our lives.  We thirst for things to be normal again.  And we long for that same sense of reconciliation that Joseph knew.

Because after seven years -- and especially in this election season -- our country is not united.  Maybe it’s only me, but I watch the news and read the newspapers and see division.  Neighbors look at neighbors and see enemies.  Name calling and bitterness are at an all-time high.  It’s not just politicians who sling mud at each other.

So, my prayer is that we let these divisions cease.  That God grants us the grace to NOT question each other’s love for country -- or for God.   Let us remember that this kind of division damages our country far more effectively than anything terrorists can hope to do. 

Let us use this ceremony -- when we remember the innocent victims and those brave heroes like Paul Tegtmeier who offered their lives to save others -- as an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to healing the internal wounds within our land.

Today Senators McCain and Obama came together at Ground Zero to honor those victims and heroes -- not as Republicans or Democrats, not as opponents, not as enemies -- but as Americans.  As children of God. That is a start.  

Heavenly Father, I pray that it is not merely one day of unity but the beginning of a new way of looking at ourselves as a nation in all our wonderful diversity and complexity.  Grant us the grace to love our neighbors, Republican, Democrat, Independent and uninvolved all the same.  Because it is only then that we can truly appreciate the gift that those firefighters and police officers and EMTs and countless others gave their lives for -- a nation at peace with itself.  Amen.