I need to begin, I think, by offering prayers for all who died on this day, and for all those who’s lives were disrupted (and who’s lives may never return to “normal”) in the aftermath of this day.  What happened was awful.  And what happened was intentional — as is so much evil which happens every day around the world.  It captured our imaginations as a country (and maybe even holds us hostage, to our detriment) in a way that Oklahoma City never really did — awful as that was.  I guess maybe because it happened at such a prominent landmark in New York City and because it was done by foreigners — we didn’t do it to ourselves.  It was done to us.

Perhaps that’s the key to our response.  I think we thought that stuff which happens to other people, elsewhere, cannot happen to Americans in our own country.  We thought we were immune.  And it shocked us that someone could do something like this to us.  And it shocked us that someone, however misguided, would ever want to do something like this to us.  I wanted to say evil (rather than misguided) in that last sentence.  And I am comfortable calling what they did evil.  I’m not as sure I’m willing to call any people, who I believe Jesus wants me to see as a child of God, evil.  I find it hard not to do this at times — and this is one of them.

I guess, for me, life is not a given.  It’s a gift.  It’s a gift from God.  And it’s a fragile gift.  We can die at any time as the result of an accident or disease or an intentional act of another person.  Most of us in this country don’t experience this as a day to day reality in our lives.  But it is a precious gift, given, I believe, for our enjoyment (among other things).  And the fact that the gift of life is beyond our power to give (at least in the most basic sense — I know sometimes doctors save lives, for a time, and sometimes someone has the power to grant continued life, for a time) makes that gift all the more precious.  And I guess that leaves us with a choice about how we approach this gift.

One way to approach our life is to see it as something precious that belongs to us, and defend it at all costs.  This defensive, guarded gate approach seems evident in our national response to 9-11.  But I think we can see it too in our tendency, when we are able, to put ourselves behind guarded gates which protect our lives and our goods and our privacy.  Another way to respond would be to recognize our lives as an undeserved gift, to be embraced and enjoyed while it lasts.  And this, I think, involves immersing ourselves in life, including the lives of all of our neighbors (and accepting the fact that preserving my life is beyond my control).

I don’t know that this is an either/or kind of thing.  And I have to tell you that as an introvert, who likes (and maybe even needs) a lot of private space, the idea of being really immersed in the lives of others is a bit frightening.  But when I look at the life Jesus lived, and the lives of Jesus’ first followers, they really seem to have embraced the second approach to life.  They were immersed (not enmeshed) in the lives of their neighbors.  The quality of their lives was influenced by the quality of life of the people around them.  They looked not just to themselves and their friends, but to strangers and foreigners, people they might well of thought of as enemies.

They lived their lives and they spent their lives and they seem to have experienced great joy in their lives.  They embraced both the gift of life and the giver of that gift.  Most of them endured hardships.  Many of them lost their lives.  But it is these joyful Christians who I have always thought of as models for my own life.  And it is a model of living I don’t recognize all that often in the world I live in today.