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Light in the Darkness

Where were you 20 years ago?

Think of the days in our history that are sealed in our memories… Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr, and now 9-11. We know where we were, what we were doing, the people around us, how we reacted. For the last two weeks, our news media has retold 9-11 stories as we approached the 20th anniversary of that attack: one story after another, reminding us of that moment in our collective experience.

 September 11, 2001 was a beautiful fall day; a bit crisp in the morning, the sky a clear blue. School students were just starting class; workers finishing their first cup of coffee and diving into the tasks of the day. There was nothing remarkable about that Tuesday, until the world stopped… one shock wave after another… the nation glued to the TV for news. And while all the channels suspended their programming to keep us posted on the events that were unfolding, for those of us who had loved ones in NY city or the Pentagon, the waiting for news lasted an eternity.

I remember calling my brother. Both he and his wife worked in the Pentagon, but thankfully Steve was off-site that day. As news spread about the damage and the injuries at the Pentagon, Steve tried to reach Mary, but all the lines were busy, and the waiting interminable. It was not until 10 o’clock that night that Mary was able to hike out far enough to get through to her family to let us know she was alright.

One of my dearest friends from seminary- an Army Chaplain- lost his entire unit at the Pentagon that day. He had just gone around the corner for a quick meeting… his coffee mug still steaming on his desk, until that desk was lost in the rubble.

Another pastor friend served a church in the NY city suburbs. He and his staff went across the street to the local elementary school to help with scared students and teachers. His church lost 19 members that day. Two of the little ones in their church became 9-11 orphans.

I remember opening the doors of my church that afternoon and the people came… members… neighbors… strangers… crying… fearful… yearning for God’s protection… We prayed, we sang, we cried, we hugged… We sent several of the members of our church to Ground Zero to help with the rescue, all the while fearful for their safety.

I remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. Such a dark moment in the life of our nation... It would be easy to focus on the darkness of that day, to let the darkness define us even now. But we are a people who know the One who is the Light of the world. John tells us, His “light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The Psalmist declares (Psalm 139:12):
The darkness will not be dark to you;
The night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.
God’s Word insists that the light that Jesus brings into the world is greater than the sum of all the forces of darkness. Shine Jesus shine! That declaration of faith calls us to look for light in the darkness… and Light there is.

Think of the 10,500 passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland when their planes were grounded that day. Gander usually has a population of 10,400. Imagine doubling in size in a matter of hours. What an impossible situation, except that the people of Gander did the impossible that day. They shared their homes, their sleeping bags, the food from their refrigerators, to feed and house their new neighbors. The friendships that formed have lasted through the years. Together they created a scholarship fund of over $1.5 million. Light in the darkness…

Think of Adrianna, orphaned that day as the towers fell. Her best friend’s parents took her home from school that day and have never let her go. They adopted Adrianna so that she would have a forever family. Light in the darkness…

Think of the Upper Darby community, led by their churches, that came together to declare that all were welcome in their town- every nationality, every race, every creed. Until 9-11 that community had just co-existed sometimes not so peacefully, but now they are intentional about being neighbors for one another. Light in the darkness…

The internet is full of stories of light breaking through the darkness. Many of you have stories to tell. Now is the time to share the light so that others can see. Amanda Gorman wrote in her Inaugural Poem 2021:
There is always light
If only we are brave enough to see it
If only we are brave enough to be it.
Shine Jesus, shine- through your people, that the world may know that You are the Light that the darkness cannot overcome!

With you shining this little light of mine,
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