September 11, 2001 is a date that prompts many of us to reflect. That day—for good and for ill—has had a serious impact on the psyche of our nation, and it is only fitting that we take the time to do some reflection and remembrance.

monochrome photo of New York city during daytime showing the twin towers in lower Manhattan before September 11th
Photo by Thomas Svensson on

As one who grew up in New York State and who has lived in Washington, D.C. for most of my life, I found myself deeply affected by the events of that day. And because I was in seminary when it happened, even my theological education was shaped profoundly. The papers I wrote in the weeks and months afterward all bear the marks of that day and are reflections on it. I wrote exegetical papers on Psalm 79 (“Where Is Their God?“) and Psalm 122 (“Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem“) and preached a sermon for our Psalms course entitled “Disorientation” whose major themes were reflections on September 11th.

Of course, the reflections did not end there and transitioned from grief and sorrow to sober consideration of what lessons we are to take from the events of September 11th. Questions about mercy and forgiveness, especially prompted by the lectionary passages for September 11, 2005 (“How many times must I forgive?”), began to come to the fore. These reflections acknowledge the fact that we would be shaped by the events of September 11th, but we need not be defined by them, nor shaped in a particular way.

What follows below are some of the reflections I’ve made over the years, through papers, sermons, and essays. They don’t represent the totality of my reflections since some of them—maybe even some of the better ones—were never put into writing. But these represent my contribution to the ongoing conversation about that day and its meaning for us. To the extent that you find them interesting or helpful in your own reflection, then they will have served their purpose.

Jesus and the disciples in the upper room

Disbelieving and Still Wondering

Apr 14, 202413410 min read
No matter how profound the religious experience, no matter how seemingly convincing the proof, doubt is unexpungeable. Doubt is inescapable. It is a fact of faithful living. We Christians aren’t always comfortable with that idea. We’re not comfortable with the idea that doubt is okay or that doubt can be tolerated. We don’t know what to do with it because we’re afraid that admitting doubt is tantamount to admitting weakness in faith or admitting that we’re not faithful enough.
Cover of Delivering the Commonwealth

Something Otherworldly, and not in the Usual Way

Nov 18, 20233032 min read
November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) in which thousands of aspiring novelists commit to writing 50,000 words of their attempt at the next Great American Novel. I am one of those aspiring thousands.
Video: A Religious Argument Against the Flat Earth

Video: A Religious Argument Against the Flat Earth

Jul 10, 20236121 min read
In a way, there is a religious fundamentalist quality to this globe-denialism, and it occurred to me that there is a quasi-religious foundation for people’s stubborn belief in a flat earth. I’m no scientist, but I do know religion, and so into the fray I jumped with a video entitled “A Religious Argument Against the Flat Earth.”
Image of St. Mark from an Armenian edition of the gospels

At Long Last: The Good News according to Mark

Mar 18, 202315417 min read
My primary aim in this book was to put before the reader a presentation of different levels of translation for this sacred text. In so doing, I hoped to allow the reader to see the fundamental strangeness of the text and its familiarity at the same time, and come to see just what it is that I have come to love about Mark’s gospel.
Billboard reading: "Where are you going, Heaven or Hell?"

The Shitty Theology Along I-95

Mar 9, 202311641 min read
On a recent road trip to through the South, I saw a series of billboards with religious message. These billboards were clearly part of a single theological viewpoint. And that theological viewpoint is terrible.

One thought on “Reflections on September 11th

  1. It was of great interest to me to learn about the supposed identity of St. Matthews, as explained by your research, since it is a word that comes out of our mouths and is in our minds very often.

    I have visited Shanksville, Ground Zero, and Trinity Church; I must admit I shed many, many tears on 9/11 last week. I can close my eyes and see the soup kettle in the church where meals were made for the firefighters, and see the scars on the pews, made by their boot buckles, as the responders tried to rest.

    The bell outside, a miniature of the Liberty Bell, was cast in the same foundary as the Liberty Bell; only in England could a company be in business for that long. The inscription on the bell says, “Wrought in Anguish.” Sincerely, Beth Lingg, a 51 year member of St. Matthew’s, Bowie.

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