Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Date: September 11, 2012

What does 9/11 have to do with Jesus?

My FB feed erupted in people remembering a day that has been etched in our brain. We all recall where we were, who we were with and our reactions to the towers falling. Each year we turn our hearts and our memories to those closest to the horror and revisit their stories. 

It’s a natural phenomenon, to remember and relive, even such horrific events. Our country bore a tragedy together which shaped us individually and as a nation. We tell one another, “Never forget” but do we know why? Not just to honor the victims, though they deserve a place in prayer and reflection. But I think remembering 9/11 goes deeper than a national holiday. I think our experience of September 11th exposed something we didn’t realize had anything to do with the message of Jesus. 
Last night after reflecting on Esther and Daniel, I let it sink in how they were living in captivity, mastered by another people group and government. I realized how within the story of the people of God lies a strand of struggle against control and power and oppression. Being a 21st century American, it’s a piece of the Gospel puzzle that I – we – simply cannot fully wrap our minds around. 
God begins his work with Abraham, promising him a nation and a land. A place to call home. A land where he would reap what he sewed, and would eat what he planted. Throughout the story of Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua the people of God journeyed toward what they hoped would be sovereignty.  Fast forward and they finally find themselves in the Promised Land. It’s good for a while, until the people forget God. So the Babylonians move in, take over and haul them out of their own country to be slaves. 
All of this makes for great story behind a pulpit or on a flannel board, but I just don’t think we completely fathom what was happening. Another country, another king, marched in, killed a bunch of their men, tore families from their homes and their gardens and their schools and their neighbors, and took them someplace else so they could be servants. Even after the nation of Israel is allowed to return, remnants don’t make it back, such as Esther. 
We were born into freedom. I’m not much of a flag waver, but I think those of us who follow Jesus owe our predecessors a bit more regard than what we often realize. And not just those who fought and are fighting; but a realization that we are living a part of the Gospel promise. 
American Christianity lacks a firm understanding of how the gospel of Jesus freed us not just from sin (though it did) but it paved the way to living free of a master. Unlike Daniel and Esther, we live free of fear from someone mandating we bow down to anything other than what we believe to be true. We are truly able to serve only God. 
The events of 9/11 shook us because for it introduced to our generation the concept that freedom is not a guarantee. We can be tormented and attacked. Someone could – and did – cross our boundaries and threaten the promises we often take for granted. 
For the people of God, they lived 9/11 occurrences frequently. Some, for their entire existence, lived under a foreign regime. Don’t you suffer shortness of breath to think about what if Al Quida had won and conquered? What if bin Laden had somehow gained control? That same anxiety is what generations and generations of people woke up to each and every day. I’m sure somewhere, some still do. 
I believe only imagining those situations will lead us in the direction of the fullness of what Jesus did. His entire life was under Roman rule. He spoke of power and authority and freedom and love because it was very real to his situation. 
Nowadays we cannot fathom what he really meant because we have no collective memory of such a life. So we align our Biblical freedoms to that of freedom from sin, freedom from legalism and a very moralist vein emerges. And while those things are true (we are free from sin and legalism), it is also true that we are free from oppressive powers. 
September 11th needs to remain “forever in our hearts” because it scratched an old wound we forget existed. But we cannot stop there: if we are living the hope of so many generations, a freedom from oppression, then what will we do with it? 
Right now we take that freedom and argue about taxes and medical terminology. And while those discussions have its place, I believe followers of Jesus should get a bit more serious about using our place of privilege (much like Esther and Daniel) and go about the work of extending the Kingdom of God to others. And not just in a have-a-tract, say-a-prayer, have-a-blessed-day kind of way. And certainly not using a typical American, because-our-way-is-the-best-way approach. If the freedom from oppression can and did become reality, then we have to believe that the rest of what Jesus said could be true
Perhaps we need to get serious about the things which continue to torment God’s beloved in the rest of the world. Perhaps our little city on a hill should shine its light into the evils that plague other places, rather than just sitting so cozy in our safe little haven. And not politically (because I firmly believe that God didn’t grant us freedom so we can occupy someone else), but living justly, loving mercy and walking humbly in the many large and small ways that can change lives everywhere.  
**Patriot Day is a political, American holiday – no matter one’s faith belief. I’m not taking something that belongs to everyone in the US and saying it’s only for Christians. I am saying that those of us who follow Jesus need to also realize that the events of 9/11 have deeper implications. I’m saying that when we cry watching the footage for the 11th time it’s for a reason – and not only an American one, but a human one, one that Jesus spoke to. All faith beliefs belong to our occasion of remembering. 
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At the King’s table

Added to the list of things I love: teachings on classic Bible stories that reveal new insights about context, specifically culture. Shane Hipps never disappoints. As he was retelling the story of Daniel, I thought to myself, “I’ve heard this before. Except not about Daniel.” I had to wrack my brain a little but it finally came to mind: Esther. I’m completely enamored by her story, a slight little obsession. I think it’s my love of a good spa and her year of basically living in one.

I began to mull over the similarities of the stories. It became too large to track and my Bible Geek self resorted to an excel spreadsheet.

No seriously. (And my last 2 friends will suddenly be “busy” on all Saturday nights). 

After the forbidden worshiping, the stories begin to diverge and distinct differences rise to the top. Daniel stands firm and makes a statement. He boldly tells the King that his God can rescue him but if he doesn’t, God is no less powerful. Off to the lion’s den he goes as a testament of his allegiance.

In stark contrast to Daniel’s defiance we find Esther. Making dinner. Twice. Then she slips in that she’d really like her people to be rescued from the grip of looming death. Pretty please? If it were mere slavery, I wouldn’t bother you with such a matter.

A real scholar can provide insight into Biblical storytelling and narrative and how it powerfully spoke to the audience through both form and function, but I have none of those insights. I’m guessing these stories are similar for a reason. I believe that the commonalities reveal something about its nature. However, the distinct divergence from commonalities leaves me to question, as I’ve been doing with much of scripture, “What makes this remarkable? What does the different twist to this story reveal about the nature of God?”

I’m still in hypothesis-forming mode, but key to the story is when Uncle Mordi tells Esther, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time is this?” (Emphasis mine. Singing it to the chorus of one of my favorite Helvetica is for Lovers songs).

Position. In the King’s house. Power and favor and loyalty and heritage and belonging and exiling and what does it mean to be faithful to God in this? What do we believe God’s faithfulness looks like?

I wonder if Esther’s hospitable approach had anything to do with the fact she was a woman. A young girl, at that. I wonder if a Daniel-inspired rebellion simply lived outside the bounds of possibility thanks to a culture that gave women such little status (read the first chapter and see how King Xerxes believed in a disposable nature of women). But at such a time as this, God can and will use any willing follower. Heroes of faith don’t only arise from the strong and strapping young gentlemen like Daniel, though he needs commended. The lowly, the least of these*, aren’t excluded from Kingdom work.

And kingdom work doesn’t just pick up a few stones or enter a den of lions. Kingdom work also makes dinner. It reminds the world that She’s beautiful and can be trusted.

Daniel and Esther remind me that there’s more than one way to convince a king. We can fight power with power and win. Or we can fight power with humility and win. God isn’t beyond any method; he just needs a willing heart to invade. He’s looking for a home for His spirit and how that seeps into the world around us cannot be controlled or reduced to a formula. God will move and he will save and he will do it through willing participants, asking them to pick up and use whatever tool is sitting next to them at the moment.

*Esther was also an orphan, a noted group within the “least of these”

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