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Saturday, September 10, 2011

We have to know these stories

Memory is a fickle partner in the keeping of our life's book.

Certain facts can be observed, verified, written down. What time it was. What was said (and that is not always reliable memory). But history messes with us. And we mess with it.

I spent September 11, 2001 in a room that I remember being dark, with a revolving group of sometimes only three, sometimes a crowd of fifteen, two of whom were, I believe, in official uniforms but maybe they weren't and maybe it was three not two. I remember parts of conversation, whole bits at times, and I remember spending time walking around in a fenced back yard trying to comprehend what was going on.

That is a part of the history I remember. But what is more important is not what I remember -- though it is not unimportant either -- but how this history is connected to larger history, ancient history, future history. And what is that?

Stories. Always we are connected by stories. Stories that remind us and join us to other actions, stories that link our lives to those of women and men who paid a similar price or responded in a likewise courageous manner or assessed reality so quickly and with such devastating precision that they, too, could and did act to change history. Stories that teach, inspire, challenge, light a way.

Matthew, if I were your pastor today as I was ten years ago, I would affirm your quickness to link your father's story to that of other heroes who struggled against evil and, in their own way, won. You knew already on that morning what was at stake in your father's death and in the last moments of his life. You know what he did, what he chose.

His life is linked to that of others who, as the poet said, "choose what is difficult, as if it were easy, that is faith."

To choose what is difficult -- as if it were easy -- that is our common test. And our common task.

But our story is not just our own, or Jason's or Mark Bingham's or the others on Flight 93 whose courage inspires us. Their acts are almost, if not entirely without precedent in this country but they are not unprecedented in human history. In fact, one of the waves that washes over all of us is this call to "incalculable" acts of sacrifice and salvation. We are part of a long story of giving and giving it all, and in so doing, saving. It is a rich and deep part of who we are as humans and who we are always being called to be.

"To choose what is difficult, as if it were easy, that is faith."

And so we live on.

(W.H. Auden's poetry)

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