In the weeks and months since September 11, I have spoken with a number of Friends who have felt led to visit the site of the World Trade Center so as to feel, come close to, and perhaps in some way "understand" what happened there.
I took such a pilgrimage in mid-October, accompanied by a Friend from 15th Street Meeting. We stood, along with several others, gazing down Washington Street toward Ground Zero, weeping, and praying. The image of that tangled mass of destruction remained with me throughout the week, haunting and troubling, beyond all words.
That weekend I attended a conference at Powell House with Alan Kolp on the Incarnation. I took along Sandra Cronk’s pamphlet, "Peace Be with You," an essay to which I’ve returned from time to time over the years. During the night I awoke with the words "redeemed and redeeming," hearing them in the way that I understand early Friends spoke of Christ as "come and coming," the Church as "appeared and appearing," the Kingdom both here and yet to come. I held these words, along with a sense of their promise, throughout the day as I traveled to Schenectady for a Witness Coordinating Committee meeting. Returning to Powell House in the late afternoon, I rejoined the conference.
Upon awakening First-day morning, I picked up the pamphlet I had brought along, and the following words leaped off the page: "Christ is the window through whom we may see God’s redemptive love for the world most clearly." Later that morning I shared my experience upon reading these words: it was as though a new lens had been inserted between my inward eye and the scene at Ground Zero. And over the next several days it came to me that I could let go of all my anxious and troubling thoughts: "What can I do in response to this horrendous event? What can I do to ensure such a thing will never happen again?"
It came to me that I could pray. I could do so from a place of assurance that all has been redeemed and is being redeemed. To this, I could add my prayer for redemption. I could attune my eyes. I could look for, point to, affirm, and lift up evidence of redemption all around me. I could participate in God’s redemptive love for the world in my every breath, with every thought, word, and deed.
There’s no way I could have written these words several months ago. Indeed, if I had read them from the pen of another, I don’t believe I would have understood. And yet here they are, now. To be clear, I do not claim any grandiose or overnight "success" in the moment-to-moment practice of redemptive love. That, I imagine, would take at least a lifetime.
However, I can claim with heartfelt certainty that I’ve been given a new piece of wisdom or insight, that is, one that is new to me. I pray that I may be faithful to what has been given. I humbly request Friends to uphold me in my intent and my efforts, and should there be others so led, may we join together in a collective, corporate prayer for redemption.
A Friend with whom I shared this suggested it would be helpful for me to explain, in all its newness, my understanding of redemption. Sensitive and tender toward the range and diversity of theology within our yearly meeting, I ask that Friends "listen in tongues" as they read these words.
Profound in its reality, the words that come to explain or define redemption are simple. At God’s initiation all things have been and are being reconciled, brought back into God’s good order. Redemption has to do with hope, belief in the promise, trust in God’s faithfulness and love. It means we don’t have to do it all ourselves, though each one of us has a significant, perhaps extremely difficult part to play. Redemption—having been redeemed—has to do with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s about the Cross. Redemption proclaims that out of suffering and tragedy may come the miraculous.