Sunday, September 11, 2011

My parish hosted an ecumenical prayer service this evening for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The Presbyterians and Jewish Center joined us, bringing their respective choir and cantor. The cantor sang first, accompanied by her own guitar. She performed a couple of folksy songs that made use of several Hebrew words. Most of us were lost trying to sing along. I was pleased to see that folk music isn't only the scourge of liberal Christianity but has found its way to liberal Judaism as well.

The reverend read from Exodus 14 and I followed along in my Bible. He gave a sermon on the reading that referenced a magazine for Presbyterian clergy. Apparently, an article was submitted to the magazine from a Pastor Wilton in Point Pleasant, a major player in the local presbytery, describing his reaction to 9/11 ten years ago. I can't find the article online but he walked out to the beach where he could see lower Manhattan. He saw a pillar of smoke and thought it demonstrated God's presence in the midst. He was recalling the reading from Exodus 14 in which the Israelites were accompanied by a pillar of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire at night. At first, the reverend couldn't see the connection. How could God be present in such a horrible situation? But, then he asked, "Where was God?" and began to hear stories of survivors. Many got down the stairs because the stairwell walls held up ("the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left." Ex. 14:29). The reverend came to see that Wilton had a good point.


The reverend observed that the Revised Common Lectionary specified selected verses from Exodus 14 for September 11. I couldn't believe him because our lectionaries are generally pretty close except, I guess, when we read from something like Sirach. But it's true. Obviously those who assembled the Revised Common Lectionary also see a connection between the Exodus and survivors of 9/11.

For most of the service, I found myself trying to figure who was who based on their apparent comfort level and gestures.

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