Since the night of Sept. 11, 2001, when the church I then served as the director of community outreach held Portland, Oregon's largest memorial service to grieve our nation's losses, I've lost track of the number of times I've personally invoked that day in prayer or sermons. This Sunday will not be entirely different from those other occasions. During our worship time this Sunday morning the death of Osama bin Laden will be noted and a copy of the statement issued following his death by the National Council of Churches USA will be shared with parishioners. But bin Laden, his fate and his impact, will not be the topic of my sermon. I will not let him hijack this Sunday.
It is not that I feel this event isn't worthy of discussing in church. For all people of faith the death of bin Laden reminds us that we still wrestle with the reality of evil, questions about the morality of war and the legacy of that dark September day. Those are the reasons why I posted a statement concerning bin Laden's death on my personal blog the night President Obama announced the United States operation that brought an end to this war criminal's campaign of terror and why, as I often do, I spoke with the press the next morning and asked for prayers for peace and a time of reconciliation and healing.
This Sunday we will continue to celebrate Easter at Salem, Oregon's First Congregational United Church of Christ. What it means for Christians to experience the Risen Christ also deserves time and attention. Sometimes that attention is best experienced in the context of current events (which is why last week we celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter by marking Immigrant Rights Sunday. After all, Jesus came from an immigrant family that was forced to flee to into Egypt to avoid political persecution). My sermon this week, however, will focus more on the mystical aspects of the resurrection and in that same spirit the children's sermon will touch on Mother's Day and how we can see God not just in the image of our father but also of our mother.
Osama bin Laden would have loved for the world to have revolved around his dark and twisted vision of the divine and for every Sunday -- for every day -- to be about him and his acts. Not this Sunday. He doesn't get to make decisions for us any longer. Another day we'll discuss him. We'll decide when the time is right. In the meantime, we'll continue to pray as Jesus did, for our brothers and sisters across the world -- no matter their faith, no matter their background.
Peace be with you.