The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
Selah. Psalm 24 (NRSV)
One of the wonderful mysteries of lectionaries, whether we are talking Daily Office or Revised Common Lectionary, is when the lectionary readings for the day seem to have been given a whopping dose of divine serendipity. Anyone who does the Daily Office or RCL readings as part of his or her spiritual practice has witnessed this. A reading “jumps out” in relation to a certain day or event.
I am incredibly struck that one of the Psalms for September 11, 2011–the tenth anniversary of events in three locations that struck us dumb with fear and grief–is the Psalm from which a portion of Handel’s Messiah is derived. On the tenth anniversary of one of the most horrible days in our nation’s history, we are told (in King James English,) “Lift up your head, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors! For the King of Glory shall come in…”
This Psalm, on this day that will be commemorated with speeches and prayer and a certain amount of controversy a decade later, a day where people on the East Coast still feel acute pain and people in other parts of the country feel, at times, secretly bewildered about the intense feelings of their East Coast neighbors, is speaking loud and clear:
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”
Time has a way of bringing the world closer to the Realm of God. Not too long in the future, and maybe, in some situations, already, September 11, 2001 is slowly moving to a place where much of the acuteness of our pain, grief, and fear has dissipated, and is becoming relegated to the world of “Where were you when (fill in blank with tragedy of choice.)” Someday, the gut-wrenching fear we felt at the collapse of the World Trade Center, the events at the Pentagon, and the crash of a plane in a lonely field in Pennsylvania will fade as surely as the celluloid prints of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the sinking of the Arizona in Pearl Harbor have. Grass already grows in a field in Pennsylvania, I-beams from the Twin Towers placed as memorials oxidize and rust, and the Pentagon has been physically repaired.
Much of it, frankly, will die when we die, and when the last person who was there at these events dies, these events will become dessicated versions of what we remember, stuffed away in dry history books for seventh graders to remember right answers on exams they don’t care to take.
We say “never again,” over and over, but our psalm reminds us that all of our “never agains” will randomize into the entropic leveling power of God making all things new.
A Psalm we sing during Advent, in the melodies of Handel’s Messiah, heralds the stark truth that “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle,” fights his battles with the love of a helpless child born in a dirty stable to parents whose own premarital story was, in the eyes of local gossip, sketchy at best. To borrow from another portion of the Messiah (and from Isaiah,) “Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill laid low, the crooked will be made straight, and the rough places made plain.”
Today, as we commemorate the events of this day, ten years ago, let us remind ourselves that the most powerful weapon against evil is not fear-based retaliation, but love. May we lift up our heads and “be ye lift up”–and when we do, may we see the King of Glory come in.
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepsicatoid