New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.
All Souls Church, Unitarian
September 11, 2001
We come together tonight as a community of faith, as people of faith who come together and share a common cry, a common question: Where is God today? Where is God in our lives today? Where is God in the life of our world today? Where is God?
The images have been overwhelming, from the collapse of buildings which are the symbol of our hubris, to the joyful cries of youth in Palestine. Where is God today?
Many of us, most of us, have been committed to the idea, the hope, the dream, that if we only worked hard enough, if we only committed ourselves more strongly, we would be able to create a world where reconciliation and love reigned. That has been our hope, that has been our dream, that has been the commitment of our lives. And for most of us, we ground that commitment in faith that there is a loving God who will hold out her hands to hold us as we do this work and be there to catch us as we fall. Where is God today?
As with all honest questions of faith, this becomes personal. I came down to Washington last night to do the good work of Unitarian Universalism, to make interfaith connections, to engage our partners in what I hoped would be a conversation leading to transformation—and found myself stranded here in Washington, personally afraid, and cut off from my family. I finally reached my daughter who is now seventeen (just last week) and she cried as I reached her: "I was so worried about you Dad. I saw the pictures of the bombing at the Pentagon. I thought you were in danger." I finally reached her and was able to tell her that I was all right, that I was not in danger, though I knew that to be a lie. Because, you see, we all as we are in community, are embodiments, are manifestations of God's love And it is our call to manifest that love.
You see the bombings today, the violence, shatter, shatter what for us has been an image of security. Most people on this planet live knowing that life is fragile, that it can be terminated at any time, but for us we have been able to construct a reality which allows us to believe—or has until today—that we can create safety in a world where there is no sure safety.
And we must wrestle with not only our own personal response but also with the response of this nation to this tragedy. "This is a day that will live in infamy " was said some years ago, and it could well be said today. But we need to remember the whole story of the last time that was said. We need to remember the not only the resolve that galvanized this nation to defend itself, but also remember the thousands of Japanese Americans who were stolen from their homes and imprisoned because we as a culture needed a demon. We as a culture need to remember as people of faith that there are Muslims and Arab allies who gather tonight just as we do, to pray for their souls and to pray for our society. We need to remember.
My son, Billy, now twenty, is a private in the U.S. Army. He is stationed in North Carolina at Fort Bragg, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. And though I have not spoken with him, my daughter has and Billy told my daughter to tell me that I shouldn't worry: "Don't worry Dad, we're on high alert, but I'm told that I won't be the first to go." My son, in his wish to allay my fears, tried to make it all right that our society is dealing with this violence.
At a foundational level we need to know that it is not all right, that it is never all right for this to happen. Where is God today? Is God with my daughter who fears for my safety? Is God for my son who would reassure me? Is God for you who are concerned about those you love? Is God with me as I deal with my own fears and anxieties? Where is God today?
We are passing through the valley of the shadow, and as people of faith we must trust that God will be with us. Where is God today? I know at least one place where God is, and that is in the presence of this company. We embody a hope and a promise for relationships which can help us not only live through this time, but triumph. May this coming together tonight be a time which supports you all. And may you know deep in your souls that there is a spirit of life, there is a God, which has never forsaken you and never will.
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Last updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012.
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The Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), June 2001 - May 2009, spoke at a Service of Prayer and Reconciliation, Washington, DC, September 12, 2001.
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