September 11 in Paris

Sep 18, 2011

A week ago I was in Paris. It was September 11. On the Place du Trocadéro, replicas of the twin towers of the World Trade Center displayed the words “The French Will Never Forget” in both French and English. A day of speeches, music, and an evening vigil commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy. Directly down the huge stairs and across the River Seine stood the Eiffel Tower. If I had been standing in the right place I could have seen the Eiffel Tower framed by the twin towers.

What occurs to me in retrospect is the intersection of the purposes of the two structures. The World Trade Center was a place where people from many nations gathered to conduct business and commerce. When the Towers fell, people from ninety countries (according to Wikipedia) were killed. The Eiffel Tower, too, is a gathering place for people from hundreds of nations. We come to admire the panoramic view, the astonishing structure, and the beauty of an old and magnificent city. For a few moments we are also part of  a world in which the barriers of nation, ideology, and religion do not seem to divide us. At the foot of the Eiffel Tower and near the fountains of the nearby plaza I heard dozens of languages and watched flocks of people move with ease as part of  the beautiful spectrum of humanity.

The World Trade Center and the Eiffel Tower are, for me, Pentecost places.  As Acts 2:1-6 describes, there were people from every nation under heaven and they all understood each other. I admit I didn’t understand the languages I heard nor do I pretend we were all “feeling the love,” but for a moment I had  a glimpse of the possibility of God’s kingdom on earth. The rainbow tapestry of people gave me the chance to imagine what the promise in Galatians might feel like: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3: 28 NIV)

Photos: Sybil MacBeth