This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of four terrorist attacks in New York City, Arlington, VA, and Shanksville, PA. It also marks the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
When I was a pastor in Northern Virginia, several Sufi Muslims bravely joined us for worship on Sunday, September 11, 2005. Their point was that they were grieving alongside us – as Americans. They prayed with us in the pews. They brought Turkish sweets to share during coffee hour. They invited us to get together for future social events. I was grateful that our congregation was kind and welcoming. Even the most outspoken patriots greeted them very warmly.
I have no idea what I preached that day but the Christians and Muslims who gathered preached quite memorable sermons using very few words.
Those of us professional pastors who are preaching this Sunday have many homiletical options. There are the common lectionary texts. There are narrative lectionary texts. Some will preach a Back-to-School message or some other secular seasonal theme. And some will mention the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.
But all us – every single one of us of every faith – have the unique opportunity to preach a healing and holy sermon this Sunday. Few words will be needed.
Although we can expect angry voices to spew words of division and violence, we have the choice to express a different message. It’s important to start thinking about the personal sermons we will preach this Sunday wherever we are.
What will we personally preach in the way we carry ourselves, in the way we express our politics, in the way we will imitate Jesus (or not)?
Image of a Whirling Dervish also known as one of The Mawlaw’īyya, an order of Sufi Islam. The whirling is a spiritual practice called the dhikr.