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On the twentieth anniversary of September 11, I reflect on the attacks and the current state of the church and world. I am saddened, I am grateful, and I am filled with hope.

I am saddened at the thought of planes crashing into towers, of buildings being reduced to rubble, of people running for their lives. I am saddened by the hatred, desperation, and hopelessness that led to those evil actions. I am saddened by the 20 years of war, the money spent, and the lives lost that followed. And I am saddened by the hate-filled response of good people who, when faced with evil, resort to generalities, to racism, and to a desire to beat their plowshares into swords in some sort of righteous vengeance.

Today, I am saddened by the less than Christlike response to Covid. The vitriol, the misuse of Scripture, the selfishness, and the divisiveness are found not only in government or school board meetings but also in sanctuaries. It makes me pause, why has the church chosen to follow or even lead the war when there was such an opportunity to speak and live into shalom? I am saddened by just how far from Jesus we have wandered.

And yet I am grateful for heroes, for women and men who climbed those smoke-filled steps while others were running away. I am grateful for soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who got on planes and ships, leaving families and friends to fight so that this might never happen again. I am grateful for counselors, social workers, doctors, and therapists who dealt with these warriors when they returned home carrying their demons. I am grateful for those who pointed us towards peace even when the country was parched by thirst for war.

Today, I am grateful for women and men who continue to don their gowns, their N95 masks, and their face shields to walk into the ICU one more time. I am grateful for nurses who hold the hands of frightened patients as they are about to be intubated, and for doctors who are being crushed by the weight of the load that didn’t necessarily need to be. I am thankful for those who go home physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted every single day. I am grateful for the teachers, school administrators, ministers, and other leaders who continue to work so hard in the midst of such trying circumstances. I am thankful for all who bring forth glimmers of grace and light in the midst of all the chaos and darkness.

And so I am filled with hope. I have hope in people who still know that violence will not solve this hatred. I have hope that children who are coming after us will follow what we do right and will learn from our mistakes. I hope that the flicker of freedom experienced by women in Afghanistan will once again burn even as the sudden darkness that descended has created such despair.

Today I hope that this virus will be eradicated. I hope that people will wake up and realize that the way of anger, selfishness, and division is not the way of the cross or the resurrection. I hope that grace may once again be the lens through which followers of Jesus see each other and the world. I hope that we will soon realize that war, whether it be in the school board meeting or in global conflict, will never produce the answers that we truly desire.

Ultimately I have hope that God, the loving God, is ready, able, and willing to bring justice, mercy, peace, and hope even when it appears so dark and distant, and even when we continue to mess it all up.

On this day, on every day…Come, Lord Jesus.

Chad Pierce

Chad Pierce is pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

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