The shadow of the Towers

Proper 19a – Sunday 11th September 2011
Matthew 18: 21-35

Twin Towers on 9/11What a story to listen to. What a lesson to learn. What a week to be focussing on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I’ve watched a number of programmes this past week commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11. They have looked at the events from a number of different perspectives and have been overwhelming in the raw emotion they portray.

One of the programmes outlined the impact that 9/11 had on The Fire Department of New York. It told the stories of the 343 fire department personnel who lost their lives that day. It was the stories of fathers, sons, brothers and friends. It was hard to watch at times, it was all so sad. I cannot even begin to imagine what these people had to go through – rushing in, where everyone else was rushing out. It brought a human face to a global tragedy.

We often imagine that we live in a fictional world. We live one step away from the toil and trouble and conflict of major battlefields and armed disputes. We cannot begin to fathom the devastation caused by earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons as they wreak havoc on the earth we live in. We calmly eat our evening meals whilst watching the ravages of famines and failed crops. We think we rely on a whole multitude of Rambo/James Bond/Robert Neville/Thomas J. Whitmore type characters who save the world on a regular basis in the ordinary course of a 9 to 5 day.

These 9/11 documentary’s showed the ordinary human faces that went through the most horrendous ordeals – and for whom there was no Hollywood ending.

One fireman who told how he managed to escape the destruction of the North Tower by minutes spoke so honestly how in the following years ‘he lost it’. He was angry. He had road rage. He fought with his workmates. He rowed with his family. For years he thought it was not macho to go and see a therapist and he remained angry. But when he started to talk he started to get his life back on track.

Let’s start to talk.

Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?

How difficult this story must be for so many people. Not just the victims of 9/11 or the London Tube bombings. But the victims of Srebrenica and Dachau and the parents of Milly Dowler and the passengers of Pam Am Flight 103. For the victims of child abuse, medical negligence, online bullying. The list just goes on and on.

Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?

The shadow of the Twin Towers still straddle the world.

But so does the shadow of the cross. And it has the power to heal. It has the power to restore. It has the power to forgive.

There are no easy answers. There is no undemanding road for us to walk. We don’t demean the lives of those who have suffered with trite answers and condescension. We stand tall, we stand alongside, we help those who struggle, we cry, we ask for forgiveness, we act human. It’s what we do.

Happy days

About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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2 Responses to The shadow of the Towers

  1. Jenny says:

    Have you seen the Forgiveness Project exhibition – it is really thought provoking, reflections by people who have been placed in the most extreme situations.

    Some of the stories are on the website

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