Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Remembering the Day That Everything Changed (Jan-Feb 2002)

Filed under: — @ 12:57 am and

by Katie Hays
January-February 2002

Meditation offered over the Lord’s Supper table at the Brookline Church of Christ, Brookline, Mass

I live on Long Island in a suburb of commuters to Manhattan.

In my town, indeed in my congregation, everyone knows someone who knows someone who died that day in the World Trade Center. Members of my church family were among those who heard the explosions, saw the smoke plumes rise as bodies and buildings fell, smelled and tasted destruction in the ash-filled air. They felt the panic as they joined the foot-flight northward to safety and across bridges meant only for cars in their quest to get home and touch the ones they love. One man I know finally made it home at 9:00 Tuesday night, having started his journey almost twelve hours earlier. He described for me his compulsion to drive around and around the commuter parking lot at the train station in his town where far too many cars still remained where they had been left early that morning. He needed to see the cars drive away as fellow commuters, his train buddies, came home to their families.

The papers and pundits say that everything changed for New Yorkers on September 11, 2001, as it did for people in Washington and Boston, cities that were miserably close to the terror. Indeed, it is even said that everything changed for Americans, or even the world, on that day. Such loss,such hurt, on such a scale, right in our back yard! Surely they are right, that nothing will ever be the same—not for those who died, or for those who lost loved ones, or for my friend who spent the night driving around the train station parking lot. Surely, everything has changed.

When we gather around this table each week, or countless tables like it around the world, all set with the same basic dishes, containing the same basic foods, September 11 comes into sharp focus. For at this table we are reminded that the loss and hurt, the tragic scale of the pain of that day, are not new in this world. The one who is our host and our bread is well aware of our terrifying capacity to crush the innocent beneath unbearable weight, to rage and murder in the name of the God we think we serve. It is the way of this broken world: to victimize and violate, to tear the flesh and spill the blood of the other. God knows our human, broken hearts, and has himself been subject to our hurtful ways, both as the murdered innocent and the grieving parent. Thus he knows the fullness of our tragedy and the tragedies of war the whole world over.

When we gather around this table we remind ourselves and proclaim to the world that September 11, 2001, is not the day that everything changed; it was the day we were reminded that this is the way the world is. We partake of flesh and blood, the emblems of suffering and shame—the symbols of our citizenship in this broken world.

But this meal is not only a memorial; it is also a promise. The promise was made on the day that really did change everything: not a Tuesday in September, nor even the Friday two thousand years ago when it seemed that death had claimed a victory on Golgotha.

The day that really did change everything was that first, first day of the week, that Sunday when the stone was rolled away for our benefit, to show the women and us, too, that violence may be an old, old story, but it will not be the end of the story.

Jesus is risen. Death, where is your victory?

When we share this meal on Sunday morning, today becomes the day that everything changes. The world is changed again right before our eyes as we taste and smell the bread and wine, and as we hear again the Lord’s promise: “I will not eat this meal again until I share it with you in the kingdom of heaven.” Death will not prevail. Our lives will ultimately be changed not by the presence of death in our world but by the promise of resurrection to eternal life in the next. By this promise we live and breathe, in the midst of the burning rubble, in the train station parking lot, in the church. Taste his promise, and live.

For more on one church’s response to the crisis, go to Wineskins

Katie Hays

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