Monday, March 12, 2007

Godspell and 9/11

I watched the movie "Godspell" for the first time in a long time a little over a week ago with the youth group at church, and since the movie and thoughts about it are sticking with me, I'm posting my thoughts.

There's the great production number "It's all for the best" about halfway through the film, when Jesus and Judas do a little softshoe about why oppression is not the end of the world: "Who is the land for? the sun and the sand for? You guessed: it's all for the best." And behind them the rest of the cast dances along. It ends with them all on top of a skyscraper and the camera pans back to show...that they are on top of the World Trade Center before it had even been completed. I thought I was going to cry.

That Sunday at church we sang "All my hope on God is founded," one of my favorite hymns, but I cannot sing it any more without thinking of 9/11. One of the verses includes the line "though with care and toil we build them, tower and temple fall to dust." And continues "But God's power hour by hour is my temple and my tower." All the same, I can't help but be reminded how terrible that was.

The gospel for Sunday (yesterday) includes Jesus talking about the fall of the tower of Siloam when 18 people died. Were they bad people? Jesus asks. And his answer is confounding. Basically, it's "They're no worse than you are." Neither a eulogy nor a condemnation, but instead an answer to the people asking the question. You don't know when and how your life will end: get your act in gear.

Watching "Godspell" was the youth group made me realize how time had passed. Most of those attending are 11 or 12 years old; they were 5, 6, 7 in 2001. Do they even remember it? And if so, how?

At the same time, another member of our parish and his family had their last Sunday yesterday as they prepare to move to Honduras. This member, the father, had been in the building across from the towers as the planes flew into them, and it changed him utterly and completely. He accompanied our youth on a camping trip last Spring, and his question to them in the dark around the campfire was "Where was God when the towers fell?" His own answer, as I remember, wasn't about where God was, but about where he ended up: drinking at least a six-pack a night in order to sleep, spending time away from his family in the wilderness, trying to sort things out. And his prayer was "I can't handle this by myself," which he says turned things around for him. This move to Honduras is part of it, I would imagine. And can I say that I think his wife is a saint.

I was amazed that seeing the towers again moved me so deeply. I've never even been to New York City. But it was like seeing a picture of a loved one who has died, coming across it unexpectedly, showing when she was young and hopeful. All the people in the buildings that day were murdered, it finally hit me, and the buildings were murdered, too.

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