As I am an artist and a disciple of Christ, one image from the days of terror that began on September 11th stands out in my mind, and it draws me to full dependence. I have been struck by the strange and pain-filled beauty of the remains of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The obvious image of an architectural skeleton cannot be missed, but there is more.
Gothic arches stand at brittle angles, the shadow of a wartime cathedral. A holy place of commerce bows low. The blown-out windows never did hold any reminder of the Stations of the Cross, of the One who "descended into the lower parts of the earth" and then "when he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8,9) Empty windows remind me that, once again, man conspired to make gifts of his own.
From another view, I see the pipes of a crippled organ, and wonder now who will sing? Even so, the smoky light breaking through the beams shatters the dark, and reminds us that somehow the darkness will never comprehend the light nor will evil apprehend faith. Somehow, the image-bearers of God rise, some in Christ and many more in the common grace of God, to sacrifice, to give, to try to help in the healing, to feel at one with a greater Love by touching one another in love. Many will sing again, a new song.
With eyes made square by endless hours of television, nerves sustained on one too many coffees, and knees worn tired from prayer, perhaps I will be forgiven if I seem crass when I say that I can think of no better monument to these days than the image of the fallen towers as an icon. What could be more fitting than one image as an actual piece of sculpture? It is a sculpture hewn as a reminder of the loss, yes, but also of the strange victory that has risen as millions rally together in our common humanity.
An iconic statement of defiance against anarchy — a promise of our resilience — seems obvious to me, and yet, again, I see more. For those who know we are made in the image of a sovereign God, it would be a declaration of dependence: dependence utterly upon God, not only for our salvation but also for every breath we receive, and dependence upon one another as fellow image-bearers of the grace of God.
As a Canadian, the U.S. civic holiday called Independence Day is not as significant for me as for my brothers and sisters in America. Even so, one of our national newspapers reported today that "'Canada will "unambiguously" join U.S. military action in striking back at terrorism, even if Canadian lives are lost,' John Manley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday." (Robert Fife, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The National Post) And so, as I think of 9/11, a deep and, I pray, abiding link has been forged in our common recognition of the day that I call Dependence Day.
Romans 9:16 – So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy. (RSV)
Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (RSV)
Prayer: Father, as each side proclaims the "evil" deeds of the other, only you reign and rule and are justified when you judge, made right when you speak. For your mercy we pray. For the grace to repent of our own evils against you and your creation and those created in the image of you, whether they be among your chosen seed or not, we pray. For grace and mercy, healing and peace we pray — for all victims, survivors and, yes, O God, even for the perpetrators. For your saints in the afflicted areas we pray. For all who have not acknowledged your claim upon their lives, may your Spirit be that hound of heaven to their souls. For the leaders of our nations we pray for the grace to receive your wisdom, discernment, correction and direction. Amen.