Our human story began long before this Shattering of glass, metal, and human lives known by its date: September 11, 2001. We do a deep disservice to those lost and those forever transformed by what they took into their bodies and psyches, if we start the
story on that tragic morning or we fall prey to the illusion that it is in the past.
The long story of human civilization is woven, and sometimes saturated, with tragic threads of misguided ego of an individual or a collective veering into the realm of evil beyond our control.
So let us now open to the spirit of prayer, reflection, and deep yearning within our own hearts for something different.
The American Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzburg, tells a story of her three-year old goddaughter, Willa, who was living two blocks away when the World Trade Center fell. When Willa was seven years old, she learned of the London Metro bombings and her response was, “We should say a prayer.” In that un-self-conscious, uncynical way of children, Willa began, “May the bad people remember the love in their hearts.”
May the bad people remember the love in their hearts.
A good place to start. But not enough. There is no such a clear division between bad and good people: our First Principle – the inherent worth and dignity of each individual – affirms this challenging truth.
It is not only the “bad” people who must remember the love in their hearts. I must remember the love in my heart. You must remember the love in your heart. We must remember the love in our hearts. When we are hurt or harmed, when feeling shame, guilt or regret, we must remember love in our hearts.
Let us also remember those who died on that day, particularly those for whom it is our responsibility, because they belonged to this wider community – from the towns where we live, from the families we know, from our common workplaces. Let us recognize those whose lives were forever changed by that loss or by how they ran towards the destruction, rather than away: the police officers, the firefighters, the EMTs, clergy, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
In the words of a beloved Jersey boy whose musical testimony to the devastation of this day continues to remind and inspire us:
May your strength give us strength.
May your faith give us faith.
May your hope give us hope.
May your love give us love.
Let us now be together in stillness, until I ring the chime, letting our hearts pray their own prayers and our minds seek peace.
May it be so. Blessed be.
Let us now raise up our voices, as we sing this chant from Unitarian Universalist musician, Sarah Dan Jones, who wrote it in response to 9/11.
Deep thanks to the prayers of others who have come before me, including these whose words echo in this prayer: Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Sharon Salzburg, Chris Stedman, and Bruce Springsteen.