Running Towards the Fire: A post for 9-11

I wasn’t going to write about 9-11 today. It’s been fifteen long years and while it’s still a day to commemorate and mourn, I don’t think I have anything new to add. And so I wasn’t going to write today.
But then I saw a video of the Cheshire Fire Choir singing Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’ and it broke my heart. Forget everything that came afterwards, the enduring image of that day is a line of firefighters running towards the danger and weighed down by their equipment. And so many people were lost that day, but so many more were saved by those who ran into the fire.

I was in New York around a year after 9-11, and we visited the church that had been used by the emergency services as a staging post. And that church was filled with uniforms and caps and helmets from fire companies around the world. And yet it felt spiritual somehow, there was a sense of the sacred among the tributes and the ruins.

I think three’s an image here of Jesus. It’s a strange image but one I’ve been unable to shake this morning. Because so many Christians, especially in the aftermath of a day like fifteen Septembers ago, want Jesus to be a warrior-king, sweeping in to wipe away our enemies and enforce his will upon the world. We want to see the bad guys pay.

But what if Jesus doesn’t appear to us as the vengeful warrior on a warhorse, what if Jesus appears to us as he climbs towards the fire, sacrificing himself to save those who are trapped, scared, crying in the dark?

What if Jesus is less of a warrior and more of a firefighter? 

I don’t know what to do with this image but it lives with me because it’s an image that speaks of sacrifice and duty and compassion and courage and vulnerability and grace. And as I listen to a gospel song by the Boss and think about my faith and remember wandering around the ruins of Ground Zero, everything falls together in an attempt to say something I can’t quite hear, but that lives in the memory of those who give themselves for others, those who run towards the fire.


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