“Twenty-first Century Peacemaking in Commemoration of September 11, 2001”
Pipe organ music filled the rafters of First Presbyterian Church, Bryan, where an “interfaith service of remembrance and commitment to reconciliation” was being live-streamed. The event was offered for the twentieth commemoration of 9/11, with a variety of civic and faith leaders on hand offering readings and prayers. The space was mostly empty because of the service being offered online only. Still, the handful of voices present joined the organ to carry us all through a powerful meditation. That’s how I experienced it: as a powerful meditation. We sang “This Is My Song,” a poem written by Lloyd Stone and set to the Finlandia hymn melody composed by Jean Sibelius in 1934. The words of peace and patriotism flooded my spirit with emotions—hope for the enlivening gift of community; fear for present and future generations; love for the interdependent nature of humanity and the earth that binds us together as one people. I nearly fell to my knees right there in the aisle next to that pew where I stood under the profound weight of it all. The hymn sang of one’s adoration for their own land, their own surroundings, and their own perspective nurtured by those sacred environs. And immediately shifting, the hymn’s words turn outward, singing of people the world over with environments they call home that are equally sacred to them. Overwhelmed by that deep appreciation, the one singing confesses the absurdity of self-absorbed exceptionalism, and cries out for a more neighborly peace to be acknowledged and prioritized between their own nation and others: “So hear my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.” Today, that meditation still sings in my spirit. It’s reminding me that a recognition of other people and their countries may invoke peace, but perhaps only a passive peace, a live-and-let-live peace. Those other environments that nurture the wellbeing of our global neighbors with “sunlight, clover, and skies as blue as mine” are no more “other” than the very neighbors with whom our lives are interconnected—the ones the hymn sings about. To embrace the strange other in foreign lands as a beloved friend requires that we also embrace and advocate for the environments that provide them with life. Their skies are our skies. Their water is our water. Their earth is our earth. Their life is our life. To be a peacemaker, then, as Jesus instructs us to be, demands more than praying for an end to war. To be a peacemaker, to actively work for peace, asks that we not only recognize the sacredness of human beings the world over, but that we recognize the sacredness dirt, air, trees, oceans, and every living component of the God-spun ecosystems that bind us together. Put simply, taking good care of the earth, advocating for its preservation, and nurturing its awesome ability to nurture everyone in every nation, is a faith imperative for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every beloved child of God, no matter who we are or where we come from. Here are the words to that hymn for your meditation. May they stir peacemaking fire in you to honor the lives lost twenty years ago on 9/11 by caring for all of God’s creation and every neighbor in it today and always… This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine. My country’s skies are bluer than the oceans, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine. But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine. So hear my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.