Saturday Sermon: Tragedy reveals heroes, cowards

Sept. 9, 2011 at 4:09 a.m.

By Gene Rice

It is not that tragedy creates heroes, or even that it builds courage. Instead, it reveals heroes and gives courage an opportunity to express itself.

Such was clearly the case on Sept. 11, 2001. The 10 years have gone by quickly, but most of us remember it as though it just happened. I had just come from class, lecturing the students on (ironically) the nature of reality. As I entered the office of the Language Arts building, I almost ran into a TV on a cart that someone had parked near the middle of the room.

Uninformed, I asked, "What is this doing here?" Someone said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Then I saw it, the second giant plane crashing into the other tower at the World Trade Center.

I was stunned. I watched for what seemed liked hours, praying for the victims and the rescue workers. I cannot remember the time of day, but I remember the moment when both towers (within minutes of each other) disintegrated into a sudden pile of rubble.

In that moment, I could feel my hopes collapse, along with the buildings.

And then it happened, a sudden clarity of thought and the words of Christ, "I am with you always." Why was this important at that place and time? Because the other thing that tragedy does is reveal cowards and give hatred an opportunity to express itself.

While we do not get to pick our tragedy, we do get to decide how we will respond to the tragedy. I think we should never forget those rescuers and victims who responded courageously and deserve the designation of heroes. And those survivors and rescue workers tell of evidence of God's promise to be with us.

Digging through the rubble they found a room that was created by the collapsing buildings. The room looked oddly like a sanctuary. The steel "I" beams had formed what appeared to be benches, row after row. And any direction a visitor might look there was a cross.

The cross is a symbol of great tragedy and unlimited hope. The place was called God's House and hundreds came there to pray.

So, we are reminded, both of God's presence and our choice.

We can be courageous, as many were on that day, and do the right thing, or we can be cowards, and run from God and those in need.

God promises to be with us, but gives us the freedom to decide what we will do.

The Rev. Gene Rice is pastor of The Church at Spring Creek in Victoria.



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