Reflection: with prayers for our visitors from the USA
On Tuesday 11 September 2001, a small group of people accomplished what the years of stand-off we call the Cold War could not: an attack at the heart of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Indeed, the USA is a nation that has prided itself on surviving the Cold War and emerging as that most powerful nation - a leader of nations.
The stand-off which left the world standing on the brink of nuclear devastation for generations was named MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction. It worked because the great powers of the world had too much to lose if they were the first to launch missiles.
The world has changed and we see increasing numbers of people who have nothing to lose. They are people for whom the loss of their own life matters infinitely less than the destruction their death can wreak. A great change has been brought about in MAD. The mutuality of assured destruction is strangely skewed so that those who have nothing are more powerful than those who have everything.
They may lose their individual lives but die knowing that they have dealt a devastating blow against those they see as their oppressors.
The world is more dangerous. A mighty nation of millions can be paralysed by the work of a few. A President cannot return to his government offices but has to seek a place of safety away for his capital. Who knows? Were the nuclear bunkers made to defend against and equally powerful foe and thought redundant brought into use when a dozen people with nothing to lose lost the final little they had?
What does Faith teach us when faced with such an enormity? How can we comprehend the mindset of someone who would hijack a plane full of innocent people and direct them to hit one of the pinnacles of western power and success? What of those who seek revenge - no matter on whom? What of those who dance in the streets at the deaths? What of those who judge - apportion blame - when the bodies of those who died and were cruelly maimed need tending - their loved ones respect?
Our madness - our foolishness - rests ultimately in powerlessness. It lies in God being crucified. It lies in the One sent to redeem the world facing alone the evil that "does not know what it is doing".
We see in the destruction of the symbols of wealth and power something that Christians persecuted under Roman tyrannies prayed for. They had neither the technology nor the will to destroy by violence. Instead they set their sights on deliverance by their Risen Lord. Some would say they were mad - yet they were, even at great personal sacrifice, ultimately triumphant. Their weapons were different - but, ultimately, their faith triumphed and, as the songs of oppressed people have sung for generations, God did indeed hear their prayer and deliver them.
The world has created new gods - and has worshipped them well. Not just power but the desire for revenge; not just wealth but a harsh brooding of resentment.
The God we know is a God of power and might - we proclaim that day by day - week by week. Yet his MADness is not in destruction and death but in entering into the world's suffering in a way that man-made gods can never do.
Man-made gods make humanity into puppets - they manipulate and lead to destruction. How often has the worship of man-made gods led to human sacrifice - and that sacrifice been seen as pleasing to the god who rewards with "prosperity" and "power"?
Our God offers us life - life in all its fullness.
The madness of our God sets us free
We pray for those who died
for those who have been injured
for the rescuers
for those caring for the injured
for those who have lost loved ones
for those traumatised
We pray above all for a healing of the pain of the world that gives rise to such events
Liturgies that may be useful - adapt as appropriate
Trust in Grief: a liturgy of
trust and prayer for strength in grief