Not Enough Stones

A Reflection on the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11

A few weeks after September 11, I had the opportunity to preach in Munsonville and Marlow New Hampshire.   Although a week or two had passed since the collapse of the World trade Center, the world was still in a haze about what had just happened. 

The message I preached in those services focused on the way we choose to respond to those moments when God seems absence.

I talked about bitterness in day to day, and bitterness in faith.   Together we talked about the environment that breeds hate, intolerance, and a desire for revenge.   I reminded them that radicalism exists in every faith group, and speaks more to who we are than the teachings of our faith.  I talked about how we, as people of faith are called to respond to, act in, and embrace a different way.

To stress that point I used an illustration that I have returned to on numerous occasions.   I think this was also an illustration that I have used in a sermon since arriving at Asbury.

The illustration, originally used by Simon Fester an English Methodist preacher,  details a scene from one of my favorite movies; Forrest Gump.    It won 13 academy awards, and Tom Hanks is spectacular as the slow, physically disabled Forrest Gump.   

What is so great about this movie, as one reviewer put it, is that:

This man possesses the  tools he needs to deal not only with such an unfair beginning, but to deal with life as a whole.

According to Fester, The message of Forrest Gump is simple: Life is not fair.  Adversity, difficulty, abuse, and death strike our lives in irregular patterns.  But life is also not decided.  We can, with fear, anger and bitterness, be overcome by life’s adversities and be buried by our inabilities.

We can, with courage and faith, transform adversity into blessings and shortcomings into benefits.  

For Forrest and his mother, everything is an adventure, to be met with anticipation, excitement, and the realization of possibility.

Life is like a box of chocolates,…you never know what you’re going to get.  Life’s enjoyment comes with opening the box and the anticipation of what’s there as the chocolate hits your toungue.

It seems like, every aspect of Forrest’s life begins with the potential of saying “Its not fair” but we never hear him say.

For those around Forrest,… being met with injustice and giving up becomes almost a reason to not even try.

Forrest succeeds regardless of his circumstance.  Despite his handicap, he runs.  What a powerful message,…..Precisely because its something he can not do….he does it.

He becomes a star running back…even a messiah like figure who captures the country’s attention when he wont stop running.

Forrest befriends Lt. Dan, an individual who chooses to give up.  Wounded in Vietnam, Lt. Dan has lost all hope.   But through his friendship with Forrest, the man recovers spiritually, and goes on to become incredibly wealthy.

Lt. Dan and Forrest stand in stark contrast to each other.

Even more startling is the contrast between Forrest and his one true love Jenny.

Jenny was born and raised in the most horrifically dysfunctional families of abuse and alcoholism.  She unfortunately misses all the lessons that Forrest so easily embraces

There is one scene so incredible powerful in its simplicity.  

In this scene, Jenny returns to her childhood home…the symbolic center of all her abuse and falls into a pit of anger and depression and starts hurling rocks and screaming at the old building. 

It a fit of rage she throws rock after rock in rapid succession.

Exhausted she falls into a heap on the ground in total despair.   Standing off to the side, Forrest comments:

“For some people there are just not enough stones”

I think that as we look around at this world, Forrest’s assessment of the situation couldn’t be closer to the truth….there are not enough stones.

Faith is looking forward with uncertainty, while despair is about looking back…and looking for stones.

Ten years ago today, Terrorists attacked the country, and a great many things changed.   Some say our country lost its innocence.

Over the last ten years a good many of us have lost hope.  We see the world as broken and un-repairable.    For many September 11th, left a scar at the center of their being and they scream for revenge to this day.  They have allowed themselves to be changed forever by the faceless madmen who gained control of those planes.

They keep looking for more and more stones.

The reason we chose to remember is because we have an opportunity to celebrate the light that finds its way through the darkest of moments.   In allowing that light to be seen and celebrated, we realize that God is never absent.

If we can keep that truth front and center, there is little that can cause us to fall down.

Recognizing that brings a peace that surpasses our understanding.  It keeps us from searching for the never ending pile of stones.

Let us celebrate that peace as we celebrate and remember this moment.

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