One day early on this Good News this week. It’s been a news-filled couple of days: remembering the manmade catastrophe of September 11, 2001 – now seventeen years past; and preparations for an impending possible disaster in the form of a category four hurricane, named Florence. In the remembering and in the preparation so much comes to mind.
9/11 – a Tuesday morning, glorious bright blue sky, the makings of a lovely day, until disaster struck in New York, first one plane and then another crashed into the Twin Towers, those tall, proud symbols of prosperity and power, reducing them all too quickly to rubble and places of death and destruction of some three thousand lives, and the lives of countless survivors, and friends, families and loved ones whose lives would never be the same. We remember them. And we remember all who came to help, human and canine, risking their own lives and health in the process. The death toll continues to rise from the illnesses contracted from those days, months, years of working in that place.
But New York was only one of three targets that day: the Pentagon on Washington DC was hit by another plane, with lives lost there, and the third plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. It was headed to the White House, but was brought down by passengers who discovered what was happening, and chose to crash the plane themselves rather than jeopardize more lives in Washington. Heroes, all around. Memorial services in all three places. So many memories, of sadness and service, the sweetness of remembering happy times and loves that remain, even if the lovers are no longer physically present.
In the midst of all of this, we here on the East Coast prepare for a hurricane – one that looks to be powerful and very dangerous not only in size, but because such storms are, in the end so
unpredictable. A friend shared a documentary made a few years ago about another huge storm, striking the same area in 1954. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haOohoL-uoM ; andhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMR5k1qc8D8 I was very young then, but do remember Hurricane Hazel, because it was a storm I heard about throughout my childhood. The destruction from that one storm reached from North Carolina, all the way up inland to Ontario Canada, causing havoc and flooding all the way through. Monster storm. Here in our part of New Jersey, we have had a few in recent years, the worst by far being Sandy. But even more destructive was in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, not even a year ago, where the death toll is now close to 300 people, and many, many people are still suffering without adequate food, shelter or water.
We had word this week that the St Thomas donation to help in Puerto Rico recovery has been received, and is being put to good use! So when we hear a forecast, we remember, and we prepare best as we are able. Check the batteries, fill water, make sure the generator works, andthe “go bags” are ready, shelves and pantry filled with nonperishable foods, lest we be caught offguard on what started out as a beautiful, sunny day. And, as we are able, we can help those whose lives may be disrupted through Episcopal Relief and Development (envelopes in the gallery, or online donations) or through filling the Quarter Tube, which goes to Puerto Rico.
But all the time we know that it is impossible to control or even predict every catastrophe that might come our way. So we do what we can, and remember to tell the ones we care about that we love them, just in case. And we pray: for those in harm’s way, either by choice or accident; for those whose technical skills help us to know what we might expect in the hours or days tocome; for those we love, and those we’ve never met. We thank God for the beauty of this earth,and of our lives, even the challenging parts, and for those who share our paths; and we thank God for those in every generation who have been and continue to be faithful in living and being on this earth.
The collect, or gathering prayer, begins “O God, because without you we cannot please you…” Iam more and more convinced that pleasing God has to do with appreciating and sharing beauty, seeking justice, and doing what we can to help others in times of need. In short, loving what God has given us, and caring for it and all whose lives we touch. Always out of a sense of God’slove, even when nothing seems to make any sense, or we feel afraid. May we trust what we have learned along the way, and always know that the Holy Spirit is close by, in our remembering and in our living.
Let us pray:
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Peace and blessing,.
Reminder: Our Bishop is coming on Sunday, September 23 – there will be one service at 3:00 pm. We will celebrate with our confirmands and their families, and have time to share hospitality with Bishop and Susan Stokes. The service will be in the church, but if the weather is fine, we hope the reception will spread outdoors. This is for the whole parish, not just the confirmands and their families! Your presence is most desired!