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That Day
9/11/2001
(A memory written 11 days after)

I was there in New York City on that clear, blue skyed fall morning, September 11th, the very minute the tall twin towers exploded with black smoke and fire as two commercial airliners were rammed into them.  Our very own best airlines had been robbed and piloted by Muslim Fundamentalists with a mission to pay tribute to Allah. It was to bring down whom they considered Satan - that Satan that was my country, the leading nation of the world. The Fundamentalist terrorist group didn’t do a bad job accomplishing what they intended to do.

Of course the shock that someone could do this to such a powerful and free nation, will not wear off, ever, and many of us have wondered where is God?  What does this mean? Has he left the heavens? Is he hiding out somewhere beyond the minds of mankind? Most Christians went to church Friday the 14th to try to reassure ourselves there is a God who loves us. Have we maybe miscalculated? What is Love? Have we misinterpreted what we read and preach?

I went to a Cathedral but could hardly look up at the altar. I didn’t want to see Jesus on the cross. I know He is the most silent sufferer. And I was silent too because I had nothing to say. I had lost one friend in the explosion, but I was frightened. I really had no sense as I was too busy looking at the imploding buildings and body parts being carted off, maybe even a hand from my friend Berry who was on the plane that crashed into building two. But worse, I still cannot forget the fear and panic I felt that moment my son, who was with me, and I realized what was happening a few blocks away from our hotel right in the midst of Wall Street. Everything shut down immediately: subways, restaurants, retail stores, taxis, airports, bridges. We became hostages on an island of fear, an island that could only be left on foot. It’s connection to the rest of the world was only by a tunnel and a bridge. And even these were prepared to lock down tight.

Immediately I called my friend artist Claudia who lives right on the border of what was later known as Ground Zero, where the buildings crashed into themselves and against other buildings, and led Americans through days of horror. They called it Ground Zero because that was what it was. It was zero the lowest you could get. I was relieved Claudia was okay (she had a dinner party for me in that area the night before) so we kept in touch throughout the day until the telephone cables were cut. My son and I were in New York to see a sell-out play, then had to get to Nashville as I was performing a wedding for a long time family friend on a mountaintop.

But worse, I got lost. I forgot who I was. I was so scared, I forgot I was an ordained minister of the church. It was the first trip I had ever taken without my collar, or my diocesan ID card from Uruguay,  and the trappings that may have made me a more legitimate helper. In the hours that followed, my son didn’t even want to step inside a church as no one knew if it was over or not. Would our faith homes be next? So we hid, like so many, in the room of our hotel, wondering if the wind would change and the soot and smoke and pulverized sheet rock and metal forming an ominous smoking mountain across lower Manhattan might overcome us a few blocks north. People, once vibrant individuals, became as anonymous as screws in a steel bolt. Crushed. They were just eliminated without any glory or selection when those buildings crumbled. And those who happened to be passengers on the jet liners were innocent weapons that the terrorist groups, the Taliban, used against us who it loves to hate.

Every kind of worker began the search before the dust thought about settling. They dug, and scraped, and listened and used their cell phones, and prayed and cleaned themselves over and over of the white dust that became an emblem of heroism. They retrieved body parts scattered among millions of sheets of paper that ironically didn’t burn in the continuing fire but blew around like white doves confused at where they should rest, papers about budgets, and bank balances, and projects, computer printouts, bonds and stocks that make up Wall Street’s merchandise and the exercise of the world’s most important economy.

James and I were locked into the television 24 hours like everyone else. We could not break away. Something might happen. We didn’t know how far this would go. Was it over? Would we be next? I panicked. I wanted to return to Uruguay, where I’d lived 15 years. For some reason the country of my birth seemed all wrong. Why did the Taliban choose to destroy the towers that were symbolical of the money god that moves American forward? Didn’t that hide our compassion and real care for each other? Those towers, taller than the tower of Babel, not only cost millions to build but housed the foundations of billion dollar enterprises that guided and governed our economic policies. They were no more. That was for sure.

I longed for peaceful, even the poorness of Uruguay. Things were so much simpler there. I feared I’d never get back, unless i took off on foot through Mexico. The US government immediately shut down all the exists because we were declaring war on the world of terrorism. We couldn’t even get out of New York City. With my organs twisted into a knot by fear, and my son worried as well, I selfishly wept before the God I thought I had been serving, the loving one.

We went down into the streets and stood in the middle of thousands and thousands wounded and disarrayed people just walking north, to get out of the city over the only bridge that would let people on foot cross, we were shocked by the eerieness of it all - the silence - the courtesy- the emptiness in their eyes. The usually beautiful, stylish people were in disarray.  Each one walked, black next to white, as if all they had in their thoughts was the direction North to get home. It didn’t mind if you were shoeless or in Prada shoes, or dirty and sweaty, or torn or bleeding,  just walk North. And try to forget the horrors of that morning.

In the place of the office workers and masses as they exited across the one or two bridges still open to foot traffic,  entered the heroes - the firefighters, the policemen, the medics, the construction workers, those whose task it would be to find any possibility of life, whose assignment was to save - to save- and pick up pieces of bodies, and passports and anything that was a clue to human existence that had been there a few hours ago, even days earlier. Now pushing enormous steel bars and glass and rubble that one never thought could be felled, they attempted to pull out what was left of humanity crushed underneath the ruble of 120 floors of a pummeled building. American flags began to pop up, to raise up in that very rubble, and our President and all his political critics and enemies joined together in an embrace that maybe did confirm God was still at it - and we had not lost. Even our foreign enemies were appalled, at first, with this attack, and resigned their pride in order to join together to rid the earth of a vermin, a terrorist organization who could turn on them as well.

And so I wondered. Whose God is right?  The Muslim one touted by the fundamentalists who were completely victorious in their attack against the capitalist stronghold - or the Christian one who is supposed to, as Billy Graham preached at the national memorial service, have us in his loving arms. I could not feel those arms for a while, and maybe that is why I was so consumed with fear. I could not feel church. I could not feel  spirit. I felt separated from the world, as I’m sure many did. But then, after a 900 mile drive to Nashville (at 6 a..m. the day after, took one of the three running subways from the hotel to Queens where a taxi awaited to transport us) since there were no airplanes operating anywhere. But my daughter lived in Nashville and together we made a pilgrimage to its Cathedral, where I knew no one, but at the same time, I knew we were all in the same fellowship, the same servants and all children of God rethinking our freedoms and privileges.

Must we also re-think our God? Whose God reigns? Ours? Theirs? How can one God be on both sides? You are for us or against us? Must we go to war to get an answer? Our God is not a God of hate and cowardice but courage and justice. He hung on a cross for us. As we confess our need for God - we have always needed Him - we realize He is our only answer. Therefore we shall not fear although the mountains shall fall into the sea, said Rev. Graham. In our suffering we must realize God understands what we are going through, after all He undertook the most awful of suffering for us.

From the Cross, God said “I love you.” Now we have a chance. Love, not hate will win all wars. We must chose the side of Love. Can we crawl back up  out of that terrible pit filled with death and loss and soar once more into the heavens? Can we turn beasts into beings with hearts? We are all of the same human race. We all come from Adam and Eve. We all need resurrection, re-birth once more to try again.  And May God show us the way. Amen.


 ~ Rev
---------------------------------
audrey@audreytaylorgonzalez.com

www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

(A memory written 11 days after)

I was there in New York City on that clear, blue skyed fall morning, September 11th, the very minute the tall twin towers exploded with black smoke and fire as two commercial airliners were rammed into them.  Our very own best airlines had been robbed and piloted by Muslim Fundamentalists with a mission to pay tribute to Allah. It was to bring down whom they considered Satan - that Satan that was my country, the leading nation of the world. The Fundamentalist terrorist group didn’t do a bad job accomplishing what they intended to do.

Of course the shock that someone could do this to such a powerful and free nation, will not wear off, ever, and many of us have wondered where is God?  What does this mean? Has he left the heavens? Is he hiding out somewhere beyond the minds of mankind? Most Christians went to church Friday the 14th to try to reassure ourselves there is a God who loves us. Have we maybe miscalculated? What is Love? Have we misinterpreted what we read and preach?

I went to a Cathedral but could hardly look up at the altar. I didn’t want to see Jesus on the cross. I known He is the most silent sufferer. And I was silent too because I had nothing to say. I had lost one friend in the explosion, but I was frightened. I really had no sense as I was too busy looking at the imploding buildings and body parts being carted off, maybe even a hand from my friend Berry who was on the plane that crashed into building two. But worse, I still cannot forget the fear and panic I felt that moment my son, who was with me, and I realized what was happening a few blocks away from our hotel right in the midst of Wall Street. Everything shut down immediately: subways, restaurants, retail stores, taxis, airports, bridges. We became hostages on  an island of fear, an island that could only be left on foot. It’s connection to the rest of the world was only by a tunnel and a bridge. And even these were prepared to lock down tight.

Immediately I called my friend artist Claudia who lives right on the border of what was later known as Ground Zero, where the buildings crashed into themselves and against other buildings, and led Americans through days of horror. They called it Ground Zero because that was what it was. It was zero the lowest you could get. I was relieved Claudia was okay (she had a dinner party for me in that area the night before) so we kept in touch through out the day until the telephone cables were cut. My son and I were in New York to see a sell-out play, then had to get to Nashville as I was preforming a wedding for a long time family friend on a mountaintop.

But worse, I got lost. I forgot who I was. I was so scared, I forgot I was an ordained minister of the church. It was the first trip I had ever taken without my collar, or my diocesan ID card from Uruguay,  and the trappings that may have made me a more legitimate helper. In the hours that followed, my son didn’t even want to step inside a church as no one knew if it was over or not. Would our faith homes be next? So we hid, like so many, in the room of our hotel, wondering if the wind would change and the soot and smoke and pulverized sheet rock and metal forming an ominous smoking mountain across lower Manhattan might overcome us a few blocks north. People, once vibrant individuals, became as anonymous as screws in a steel bolt. Crushed. They were just eliminated without any glory or selection when those buildings crumbled. And those who happened to be passengers on the jet liners were innocent weapons that the terrorist groups, the Taliban, used against us who it loves to hate.

Every kind of worker began the search before the dust thought about settling. They dug, and scraped, and listened and used their cell phones, and prayed and cleaned themselves over and over of the white dust that became an emblem of heroism. They retrieved body parts scattered among millions of sheets of paper that ironically didn’t burn in the continuing fire but blew around like white doves confused at where they should rest, papers about budgets, and bank balances, and projects, computer printouts, bonds and stocks that make up Wall Street’s merchandise and the exercise of the world’s most important economy.

James and I were locked into the television 24 hours like everyone else. We could not break away. Something might happen. We didn’t know how far this would go. Was it over? Would we be next? I panicked. I wanted to return to Uruguay, where I’d lived 15 years. For some reason the country of my birth seemed all wrong. Why did the Taliban choose to destroy the towers that were symbolical of the money god that moves American forward? Didn’t that hide our compassion and real care for each other? Those towers, taller than the tower of Babel, not only cost millions to build but housed the foundations of billion dollar enterprises that guided and governed our economic policies. They were no more. That was for sure.

I longed for peaceful, even the poorness of Uruguay. Things were so much simpler there. I feared I’d never get back, unless i took off on foot through Mexico. The US government immediately shut down all the exists because we were declaring war on the world of terrorism. We couldn’t even get out of New York City. With my organs twisted into a knot by fear, and my son worried as well, I selfishly wept before the God I thought I had been serving, the loving one.

We went down into the streets and stood in the middle of thousands and thousands wounded and disarrayed people just walking north, to get out of the city over the only bridge that would let people on foot cross, we were shocked by the erieness of it all - the silence - the courtesy- the emptiness in their eyes. The usually beautiful, stylish people were in disarray.  Each one walked, black next to white, as if all they had in their thoughts was the direction North to get home. It didn’t mind if you were shoeless or in Prada shoes, or dirty and sweaty, or torn or bleeding,  just walk North. And try to forget the horrors of that morning.

In the place of the office workers and masses as they exited across the one or two bridges still open to foot traffic,  entered the heroes - the firefighters, the policemen, the medics, the construction workers, those whose task it would be to find any possibility of life, whose assignment was to save - to save- and pick up pieces of bodies, and passports and anything that was a clue to human existence that had been there a few hours ago, even days earlier. Now pushing enormous steel bars and glass and rubble that one never thought could be felled, they attempted to pull out what was left of humanity crushed underneath the ruble of 120 floors of a pummeled building. American flags began to pop up, to raise up in that very rubble, and our President and all his political critics and enemies joined together in an embrace that maybe did confirm God was still at it - and we had not lost. Even our foreign enemies were appalled, at first, with this attack, and resigned their pride in order to join together to rid the earth of a vermin, a terrorist organization who could turn on them as well.

And so I wondered. Whose God is right?  The Muslim one touted by the fundamentalists who were completely victorious in their attack against the capitalist stronghold - or the Christian one who is supposed to, as Billy Graham preached at the national memorial service, have us in his loving arms. I could not feel those arms for a while, and maybe that is why I was so consumed with fear. I could not feel church. I could not feel  spirit. I felt separated from the world, as I’m sure many did. But then, after a 900 mile drive to Nashville (at 6 a..m. the day after, took one of the three running subways from the hotel to Queens where a taxi awaited to transport us) since there were no airplanes operating anywhere. But my daughter lived in Nashville and together we made a pilgrimage to its Cathedral, where I knew no one, but at the same time, I knew we were all in the same fellowship, the same servants and all children of God rethinking our freedoms and privileges.

Must we also re-think our God? Whose God reigns? Ours? Theirs? How can one God be on both sides? You are for us or against us? Must we go to war to get an answer? Our God is not a God of hate and cowardice but courage and justice. He hung on a cross for us. As we confess our need for God - we have always needed Him - we realize He is our only answer. Therefore we shall not fear although the mountains shall fall into the sea, said Rev. Graham. In our suffering we must realize God understands what we are going through, after all He undertook the most awful of suffering for us.

From the Cross, God said “I love you.” Now we have a chance. Love, not hate will win all wars. We must chose the side of Love. Can we crawl back up  out of that terrible pit filled with death and loss and soar once more into the heavens? Can we turn beasts into beings with hearts? We are all of the same human race. We all come from Adam and Eve. We all need resurrection, re-birth once more to try again.  And May God show us the way. Amen.


 ~ Rev
---------------------------------
audrey@audreytaylorgonzalez.com

www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

 Ascensions

There have been a lot of ascensions, those mysterious moments when holy people have risen up into the air and disappeared into the clouds, and more than likely into the heavens of God somewhere way out there beyond our universe, beyond our imagination. I love that thought.Breaking away from the hold of gravity is a challenge, as our astronauts well know. Getting high in the sky is a tough, expensive effort to see what is up there, be it a human flight in a plane  or rocket or a machine wandering among the stars. There is something marvelous about flying and being as physically high as one can get over this earth. I feel it draws mountain climbers to the highest peaks in the world. How high can one get? How close to heaven? Surely, many of us have experienced,  what one might call, a rise up in the air, or lifting up or some flying experience, real or imaginative, a moment away from earth, although in the end, we are sucked back down to terra firma.

Not Jesus. He, above all, knew his destination,  where He was ascending. His was a return to His Place with His Father, the one who created earth, the universe, even us.  Jesus ascended as a true human being well covered in remnants and marks of what he had just been through - cuts on his arms, legs, head, bruises, nail scars, spear wounds on his belly - all on account of us.  He could not die on earth. That would have cemented His being on the earth forever.  That was not in His plan.  Jesus was The Holy Only Son of God  ready to return home to His Father. As He ascended, His spirit, the Advocate, was descending to live in those of us who believed in Him. He would be in every single human on earth, but many did not know it, believe it, or trust it. No matter what we do, who we are, it has always been God’s promise not ever to leave us alone.

God, at moments in time,  has given the most righteous of men and surely women, who have been part  of the evolution  of this land, a foretaste of heaven by bringing them up for a look, often  before their imminent death - Adam, Seth, Enoch, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Levi, Moses, Elijah, Micah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Baruch, as well as Muhammed the Prophet and the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at her death ascended from her small home in Ephesus, Turkey, where the apostle John had cared for her.( I have been blessed to have visited there, to kneel in that simple stone castle, and walk the garden. A place of peace and hope.) Even St. Paul said he had visited the third heaven and paradise where “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.”

Jesus’s ascension has been a popular subject in art - well robed, with hair down to his shoulders, too caucasian of a face for someone born in the Middle East,  His arms outstretched in the air repeating the pose He experienced hanging on the cross. His body glowed like sunlight, having completed His promise, His task, His glory, now going home by the sky highway to be again with his Father. There, with the Holy Spirit, they would be able to save us all down below.  So He was lifted up or exalted and the cloud absorbed him, received him, embracing him with the Divine Presence.

Those, who saw Jesus leave, were aghast and stood and waited and watched til He was not visible anymore, there being no fancy telescopes in those days, and I wonder if they worried if He would drop, fall, land on His feet again to sooth their fears, or was He truly gone for good. Surely confusion reign among those who accompanied him to that last step on earth.  I can imagine his followers, eyes teary, heads looking up, hands shielding their faces from the glorious sun, or surely raised in prayer and thanksgiving and maybe even song. “Go, Christ our savior, we love you forever.” They, being awed, at least understood.

Then they surely mumbled among themselves - At least we have the Holy Spirit in our souls to guide us and that means now each one of us have Christ in us. We must be quiet and listen to His Words and do them. At least the world has been redeemed. This was round one. We pray it will happen again.

Jesus is now up there on the right hand of his father. Will He come again, as promised, to judge us, alive or dead? Does that mean bodies or souls? What about the good people who have been cremated? and soldiers buried in holes and rivers of enemy territory during war, those who still sacrifice their lives for us, and those murdered or assassinated never to be found again.  And now, 2000 years later,  we sadly lift up to Him the victims of another virus which has choked off people’s lives too quickly, too violently, because there is no cure and too much confusion and politics, so far. Is it about power or about people?

The point is Ascension Day is a day, to thank our God for having shared His Son with us, a human man who taught us how to believe, to behave, to love, to know and worship God the Father, and who gifted us with a farewell promise - that He will return and take us to join Him in Heaven.


 ~ Rev
---------------------------------
audrey@audreytaylorgonzalez.com
www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

 

The Rev. Audrey Taylor Gonzalez is sharing her Sermons with All Saints' Episcopa

Click on her website for more inspirational sermons!

 

  www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

 

 

 

My Sheperd Is?

Warthogs and wild boar, pumas, long tailed monkeys, wandering moose, feral horses, mountain goats, black bears, sea lions, fallow deer, buffalo, long horn sheep, alligators - the beasts are moving into the emptied, vacant streets of our villages and cities, once known as civilization but now abandoned and closed down because of a deadly virus called COVID-19, something that is not even a bug, a bacteria, or insect but an irritating, clinging, disease-making invisible piece of protein that looks to kill us. It cannot even survive without a host, which, on finding one (it attacks all kinds of hosts), the virus tries to reprogram to its liking.  That means, it has to have a shepherd to exist, and that’s why it attacks, recycles and robs the good things in us so that it can survive.

Surely, those lost, non-urban wanderers, invaders, those beautiful normally wild beasts are  wondering how these new spaces opened up and how can they be useful to them in their lostness. They stroll, they sniff, they slip and slide, they nibble and bite into new textures. They search for something that seems familiar - some odor, some meal, some sound. And where is the chief, the leader, the shepherd on whom they always have depended for safety and guidance?

So they roam and run and gallop and creep - but there is no leader. There is no shepherd.

There is no guide. There is little familiar. They are lost, confused, and bold as they test the air and ground and seek some sort of sustenance and lifestyle. Maybe they make a crying sound. Where is the voice of the shepherd? Where is the leader of the pack? Our whole nation is starving for a shepherd we can trust.

A shepherd is the enemy of thieves and bandits and evil things. His ministry is to protect not only the animals, but the owners who count on him to be vigilant and to sound the alarm as well as rescue the sheep if they get stuck in a hole or caught in a rock or are attacked by a wolf or they wander too far from the herd and cannot find their way home. Then, into this picture steps the shepherd who loves each one of his sheep and will risk his life to keep them together and safe.

The shepherd is smarter than the sheep. He knows the way, the landscape, the rocks and hills, the task that is before him. He is in charge, not some wayward thief, and he knows how to unlock /open the gate. This not only corrals the herds in a controlled area where they cannot wander off and get lost, but the gate can  be opened so they all move out in a bunch and munch on the grasses that fill the hills and dales which are their pastures, their green pastures, often beside still cool waters.  There they can roam, move, stretch their legs, and roll in the dust, if they wish, while the next crop of wool is growing on their skin.

In the fields and mountains of our life, there are shepherds who usually stand tall. A good shepherd towers over his herd, his cluster, his group. He has enough height  and wisdom to be able to see in a glance all the sheep in his herd. His voice is calm and we know his sound and the movements of his arms or his staff. I cannot forget that movie Babel, where  the task of shepherding  belonged to a child-size shepherd like one encounters in barren lands of Africa,  Iran, Iraq, the Middle East. The barefoot boy had to climb to a higher level , to a world he didn’t know, for a complete view  of his scattered herd, and, hopefully, with help from his dog, they could corral the herd when it was time to go in for a meal because the sheep know him and adhere to his shout or cry for order.

Even dogs search for, wait for, hope for their shepherd to acknowledge him or her with a pat on the head, a kind and playful word, that whistle they know as a signal. The trusty sheepdogs, assistants to the shepherd, that nip at the legs of lazy lamb or calf, are being fazed out. Too slow. Too tedious. And I wonder who now hears the baaa of the lamb or the moan of the cattle not so anxious to move fast. In the days of our wild west, there was war between the sheep holders and the cattle ranchers about grazing rights and who was best for the land. The two types of crew were distinct in how they gathered their herds together. The cattle wranglers, balancing in deep saddles on quarter-horses, with their lassos and whistles and the ferociousness of the fast moving steed, worked from behind the herd of cattle. But always with the sheep, the shepherd was in front, on foot. He went first and the sheep followed. Smart dogs might hold up the rear if a sheep or lamb strayed. But all followed the shepherd as we follow our shepherd Jesus. Their lives were in his hands.

The Lord IS my shepherd, we say faithfully. We know that 23rd Psalm from childhood. It declares that  I shall not lack what I need and I may rest in the greenest of pastures near cold refreshing waters because HE, our shepherd,  is always with us, looking over us, leading us, restoring our confused minds, especially when we lose our direction, and He encourages our next step forward. Yes, we all need that shepherd - both human and animal, someone to lead us forward, not backward. Yet today, who can we trust on this earth to be that shepherd?

How would we recognize him? Well, the shepherd carries a tall stick. It curves at the top. He uses it to bring order over a bunch of misbehaving sheep, or he rests on it for a minute while standing a long time in the pastures. It is as tall as he is and I guess could be a weapon if someone tried to invade or rustle his herd. So important is this stick, it is called a Crozier and is symbolically carried by the highest ranked leader of the Christian church, the Bishops, who have been called to be our shepherds.

How can we distinguished the calls of the shepherds - which shepherd is mine? Worry not. Christ knows his sheep. And we will know His Voice when He appears and calls us home to that amazing place to be gifted to us for eternity - where we can always be within our shepherd’s embrace.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own - and my own know me.” This means a love connection.  Those who love or trust the shepherd know him and follow him. Those who don’t, might still learn who the real shepherd is. It is Jesus Christ who laid down his life for his sheep, that’s us.
 
 ~ Rev

A happy:  Remember wishing the weekend would last forever?  Happy Now????