How does one prepare to witness and absorb all that happened on that day? The scenes of exploding planes, falling buildings, the burning Pentagon, and the smoldering remains of a commercial airliner cut deep into a Pennsylvania field seemed more like the frames of a motion picture than the reality of a late summer morning, but the harsh reality of these cruel events soon gripped our bodies, minds, and spirits with a collective grief and anger that had no parallel in our nation's history. Much of our time at Westwood that morning was spent trying to track down the whereabouts of church family members who worked in the affected areas, and to hastily prepare for a prayer service at noon, and then again at 7 that evening. It was a moment of utter disbelief and certain belief. Questions of who, how, why, and what's next were heard again and again that day. There was no explanation, no resolution it seemed. Yet, there was faith, and the belief that inhabited our songs, prayers, and scripture readings that day that kept us connected to a hope beyond ourselves.
I remember Pat Close and B. R. McDonald singing the old hymn "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," at one of our services that day. When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near... it was that lingering presence of the Holy Spirit that empowered our help in brokenness, our strength in uncertainty, and our hope in those dark moments of grief. In the decade since that day, we have experienced this lingering presence again and again, finding the assurance of God's presence to be enough in the midst of life's uncertainties.
September 11, 2012, if forecasts hold true in our area, will dawn perhaps a lot like that 9/11 morning...a beautiful day, seemingly full of promise. You and I do not know what this day will bring, and yet, the same assurance from Thomas Dorsey's old hymn text still rings true...Hear my cry, hear my call, Hold my hand lest I fall, Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
As you remember this difficult day in our nation's history, hold tight to the precious hand of your Lord, the One who lingers near.