This week I've decided to swap the sermon theme with that I had scheduled for next week, because it feels that the theme is a better 'fit' for Sunday 11th September - 15 years on from the so-called 9/11 events.
It was interesting reading ver the sermon I wrote on the same theme (from James, not 9/11) thirteen years ago, and realising how very context-specific it was. Context as where, context as when, context as who, context as why... I reckon it was an OK sermon, the thrust of it is pretty much timeless and non-specific, but it is also one that could not simply be lifted and preached in this place, at this time to these people.
My creative juices are working and I have some ideas begining to coalesce.
September 11th 2001 was the day I went for dinner to the manse of the church in South Manchester at which I would spend the last two years of my training. I had agreed to bring dessert (I have long since forgotten what I made/took) and we would talk over what the placement might involve. Inevitably we spoke about the events that were still unfolding, a mix of incredulity and bewilderment. I guess the sermon that Sunday offered some kind of response - but I don't recall that either. Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes every tiny detail is seared into our subconscious, sometimes we struggle to recall anything at all, and either is fine. I guess that's part of the challenge of preaching - that context is never concrete or absolute. What is hugely significant for one person is meaningless to another. The same day that some people celebrate, others are devastated by tragedy. And I, as a preacher may oblivious to all of this... which makes the task both easier and more difficult... which is why preaching differs from teaching, if only in tiny ways, because of that inexplicable something that is God's Spirit at work.
If you want to listen to something truly beautiful and helpful to aid your own reflections on 9/11 or on tragedy at a more personal level, then go here, and listen to the words of Provost Kelvin Holdsworth at 19'48"