Open Thread: How Should Churches and Christians Commemorate 9/11?

by Dave Miller on September 9, 2011 · 58 comments

Ten years ago the unthinkable happened – our homeland was attacked.  This year, September 11 is a Sunday and so it is natural that there would be questions about what churches should do to commemorate this event.  Nothing?  Patriotic Services?  Prayer Times?

1)  Tell us about what your church is doing.

2)  Tell us what you think churches should or should not be doing.

3)  Discuss the Christian’s response to Islam and to Muslims.  We’ve had a couple of good posts on the issue the last couple of days.  Somehow, we need to stand as a nation against Islamic terrorism while also loving Muslims and not treating them individually like the enemy.

4)  What about the celebrations in NYC in which Mayor Bloomberg has prohibited any clergy from official participation?  How about the interfaith prayer service that included no evangelicals?  Should we be offended or should we be glad for the separation of church and state?

This is undoubtedly an emotional topic and passion may run high.  Let’s play nice, boys and girls.

What should Christians and the Church do about the commemoration of the tenth year anniversary of 9/11?

1 Dave Miller September 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Sioux City is having a city-wide prayer time for our nation on Sunday night and we are participating. I plan to continue in my sermon series Sunday morning and will not spend a lot of time discussing 9/11. That’s me. How about you?

2 Jeremy Kilgore September 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm

We are having a concert, however, it is not patriotic. I try not to do anything out of the ordinary for any other patriotic day for the simple reason that patriotism is not a substitute for the worship gathering of God’s people. Any special services would take place apart from the normal gathering for congregational worship.

3 Christiane September 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm

The Church WAS a presence at Ground Zero on 9/11.
People remember,

maybe the Church today could remember that presence . . .
Alice Raynor was a hospice minister (Presbyterian) who was assigned to the morgue trailer as bodies (the ‘remains of bodies’) were brought in.

She recalled the reverence with which the workers removed their hard hats and the complete peace in the trailer as she gave a blessing for each person, not knowing their faith, but praying for them, for their families, for strength for the workers . . .

On the ‘pile’ of rubble that remained, a Franciscan came to hand water out to the workers . . . he remembered, being true to Franciscan style, blessing the rescue dogs as they were brought on the pile for duty, or taken off after their ‘shift’ ended) .. .

Other chaplains, and clergy of all faiths came to assist in any way that they could . . . some were needed to help the ones who had survived and felt guilty that they lived while their friends and coworkers had perished . . .

Yes, the Church was there that day, the ‘presence’ that spoke of hope and blessing and loving-kindness. The Church ‘witnessed’ not just the horror, but stood witness to the presence of God and His love in the caring and compassion, and the bravery and strength of those who worked to save, then to recover bodies.

I don’t know why the Church shouldn’t do what it always does on Sunday, because the Church will be doing the same thing that it did at Ground Zero on that day ten years ago
. . . it will reach out to people and respond to them with God’s merciful love.

4 Joe Blackmon September 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

it will reach out to people and respond to them with God’s merciful love.

And the only way that merciful love is shown is to tell all people that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ and that all other faiths preach a false gospel that leads to hell. God’s merciful love is only available to those who repent of their sins and consciously trust Christ to save them. People from other faiths, such as muslim, will not be shown even once ounce of God’s merciful love but will suffer eternal conscious torment for their sins.

Therefore, the most unloving thing you can do is tell people that God will accept those of other faiths if they are sincere enough (and, of course, nice enough) and that all faiths worship and reveal the same God.

5 Chief Katie September 12, 2011 at 12:04 am

Christiane,

I just read your post and thought it was the result of a gentle and sweet spirit. Being in the military has brought me to some of these same places (though never of this magnitude) and it made a strong impact on me.

Although we disagree on the essentials of the faith, when we see the common grace that is available to all, it surely touches the heart and Jesus told us that where our hearts are, so are our actions.

God bless you…

6 Greg Alford September 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I do not plan to do anything out of the normal worship service… After all that is what we have come together for.

Grace for the journey,

7 tom Bryant September 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

We are doing a video about 9-11 as we begin the service. 9-11 hits our small town a little bit more than places outside of nyc or DC. They lived 5 miles from the church while training at the small local airport. One of our ladies cut the hair of 2 of the terrorists. 2 of our cops were involved in the local police protection of President Bush on the morning when he was in Sarasota and in the local investigation. But once the video is over we will go into our normal service. I will reference it again in the sermon as we are starting a series in Acts and this week we are starting with the need to get the gospel throughout the world, including the Islamic world.

8 Christiane September 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I found a video that might be considered appropriate for someone’s Church, if they do show videos there and don’t have one to show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lqmo6GuXXA&NR=1

9 Chris Roberts September 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Nothing to commemorate the day, though my sermons are taking the day into account. AM: “human tragedy and the judgment of God” from Luke 13:1-5. PM: “humble prayer for a broken land” from the infamous 2 Chron 7:11-16.

Given my general dislike of patriotic services, I don’t think this day should be an occasion for patriotic observance in church.

As for the NYC events, I’m generally indifferent. I am glad that we don’t have the thorny issue of having to include other religious groups, but I wish there was more room for Christian expression. However, such events tend to trigger the civil religion form of Christianity, and I don’t mind that not being on display.

10 Mark September 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I’m not sure what there is to commemorate in light of gathering to worship the Triune God. However, it may be a time use this tragic point in American history to paint a picture of how the gospel is larger than life.

11 Dave Miller September 10, 2011 at 12:13 am

One of the most significant events burned into the psyche of the people I will preach to.

12 Chris Roberts September 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Does it say anything that the twin towers can stir more emotions in our people than Calvary?

13 josh hall September 10, 2011 at 12:35 am

I think it’s important that we strike a balance on things like this. On one hand, if we want our churches to be relevant, we at least need to acknowledge it. The entire country is focused on it. All our people are thinking about it. Not to even acknowledge it is to communicate “We’re completely out of touch.” On the other hand, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by dwelling on it. As others have said, the reason we assemble is to worship. And that should not change. We will have a normal service at our church this Sunday. I will continue preaching through my current series. But we will find a way to make an appropriate acknowledgement.

14 Dave Miller September 10, 2011 at 12:50 am

I think you are right, Josh. To say, “We worship God” so we ignore what is going on in the world is short-sighted. But to focus too much on the world is unwise as well. Balance is the key.

15 Ed Goodman September 10, 2011 at 12:49 am

What do you all think the driving force is behind all the “big name” preachers addressing 9/11 this Sunday from the pulpit?

16 Tim Rogers September 10, 2011 at 6:49 am

Brother Ed,

I am not trying to be curt or divisive. But, I truly hope the driving force would be the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

I think Josh is on to something. However, how many times do we acknowledge December 7 when it falls on Suncay? It does seem like someone said it “is a day that will live in infamy.”

Blessings,
Tim

17 Chris Roberts September 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Tim, I have been curious to know whether or not churches did any sort of recognition in the years following Pearl Harbor. That said, the WTC attack is quite a bit different – terrorist rather than military action, civilians rather than sailors, etc.

18 Jared Moore September 10, 2011 at 7:08 am

We’ll pray for our country, soldiers, government etc. specifically during our prayer time in worship. I’m also preaching “Responding to September 11: Hacking Agag to Pieces – 1 Samuel 15:1-35.” September 11 should ultimately encourage us to hate sin, to hate disobedience to God. What those terrorists did was evil; yet, my sin is evil as well. Thank God we have a Savior and Lord who has become sin for us! Let us therefore mortify our flesh in obedience to Him while pleading Christ’s blood and righteousness alone.

19 William September 10, 2011 at 8:17 am

I don’t know about your church but in mine, I doubt there will be an adult, youth, or older child who will not be aware and thinking about what happened ten years ago. It seems silly not to recognize that in our service.

Pearl Harbor? I often reference that on the Sunday before Dec 7th. My father-in-law was present on that day in 1941.

It is pure nitpicking, Tim, but Roosevelt’s speech noted that “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”

“Date” not “day”.

That speech, especially powerful when listening to the audio, is one of American history’s most notable and recognizable, particularly the first line. It is on par with the first line of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. I don’t know of any words in our history, aside from “We the people…” that are as famous and well known as those two.

20 Tim Rogers September 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Brother William,

I am not sure if you followed my comment? I said Brother Josh was on to something and I agreed that we needed to at least acknowledge the day. I am not advocating doing absolutely nothing as if it is just another Sunday worship service. We have a local mega-church that has cancelled their services and holding special services in a local park downtown. It is receiving huge media coverage and many people are missing their local church services to go there. It is that type of celebration that I believe we should be very careful about promoting.

Blessings,
Tim

21 Doug Hibbard September 10, 2011 at 9:50 am

I’m actually ok with Bloomberg doing his event as all-secular if he truly keeps it secular: don’t mention religion at all if you want a secular event.

That, to me, is better than inviting clergy and then keeping them from speaking freely. Or allowing clergy to use the time for their own grandstanding.

As for us? I’m not sure what we’ll do. I do not want to re-introduce depression or anger over the events. And to be honest, I think that the 50% of my congregation that was alive when Pearl Harbor happened see the two events very differently and would question why 9/11 should be a big deal when 12/7 hasn’t been for many years. True, people will reference Pearl Harbor, but we don’t see many “big deals” made of it. I’ve had a few folks point out that Pearl Harbor brought the nation together while they don’t see that 9/11 really did anything of the sort.

So, I’m just not sure. Preaching on Abraham and how people of the One True God are supposed to behave amidst the heathen. Maybe it will work in, maybe not.

22 Ed Goodman September 10, 2011 at 10:44 am

Tim, I agree. My church is commemorating the 10th anniversary to reflect and reexamine the Christian response to the attacks. The attacks are indicative of spiritual turmoil across the globe, and this spiritual chaos provides spiritual opportunity to Christians.

23 Matt Svoboda September 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Due to the fact that everyone in our congregation will have it on their minds, regardless of whether we address it or not- we have decided to use it as a teaching opportunity.

We are taking just a few minutes to show how the gospel should shape our thinking with such events and what a godly response looks like…

24 BDW September 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

What does a godly response look like?

25 Joe Blackmon September 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

A godly response would acknowledge that only a personal, conscious faith in Jesus Christ and repentance from sin will save someone and that all other faiths, including muslim faith, lead to an eternity in hell. After all, all Christians recognize that inclusivism in clearly unbiblical and no Christian believes that people of other faiths will be saved by God through Christ without them realizing it was Christ who saved them.

26 John Wylie September 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

First of all I am a patriot and I do believe in conducting patriotic services, especially in light of the fact that being model citizens is a part of our Christian witness. Having said that, I don’t intend to say anything about 9/11. Quite frankly, we commemorate something in order to serve as a reminder, but 9/11 doesn’t need that because we’ve been reminded daily for the last 10 years. This date inaugerated a decade of war in which 6000 of our soldiers have been killed and thousands more wounded. Not to mention the collateral damage I think of a young teenage girl who was attending our church and that Sunday morning her mother called and let her know her brother was killed in Iraq. In my opinion all bringing 9/11 will do is elicit anger and hatred. I’m for protecting our country, but I say if we are going to commemorate something tomorrow let’s commemorate the cross. Not trying to be argumentative.

27 Ron Hale September 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm

In my weekly “Cultural Eye Opener” (for sermon closer or opener) that I send to an E-mail list, I wrote:

Can you put a tourniquet on time?

Ten years after the tragedy of 9/11, the soul of America is still bleeding.

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 strikes a nerve as the collective consciousness of citizens’ replay images of that dreadful day.

On September 13th, in the wreckage of the twin towers, a rescue worker by the name of Frank Silecchia found a two ton 20-foot-long crossbeam standing at a vertical angle.

In this sin wrecked wasteland – there stood a cross!

This cross became a sign of hope and a make-shift shrine as people came to pray or leave messages to their fallen family members.

The awfulness of 9/11 vividly reminds us that we live in a fallen and sinful world.

For two thousand years, the cross of Jesus Christ has been a sign of hope.

Actually, it is more than a sign; it is life-giving reality!

God’s Word says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The Bible says, “… who for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

On the cross …
? Jesus paid a price that you could never pay.
? Jesus died a death you could not die; He died for the sins of all mankind.
? He died for those who perished on 9/11.

Now listen to me carefully, Jesus even died for the warped-minded terrorists that flew jets into the World Trade Towers.

Jesus shed His blood, He was buried, and He arose the third day proving that He is the Way, they Truth, and the Life.

Will you trust Him today?
Will you give Him your life?
Will you allow Him to forgive you and save you?

28 Chief Katie September 12, 2011 at 12:19 am

Ron,

Wonderful post. Especially good to have you recognize that Jesus did indeed die for the Muslim, just as he died for thieves, murderers, liars, homosexuals, fornicators and a wretch such as I am. That IS the gospel.

At my church, we recongnized fully the POWER of the gospel to rise above hatred and that EVIL cannot be given a pass, by calling it martyrdom.

29 Joe Blackmon September 11, 2011 at 9:02 am

I will guarentee you that the news media won’t show videos of the Palestinians celebrating after the WTC was attacked**. Their reaction just goes to show what a morally bankrupt religion islam is and how morally bankrupt the people are that follow it. And by “the people” I mean all of them, not just the terrorists.

**Stolen from Bart Barber

30 Bart Barber September 11, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I actually showed the video of Palestinians dancing in the streets on 9/11 during my sermon today. I then preached from Matthew 5:43-48, about the fact that Jesus has called us to love our enemies.

Pretending that Islam is not (generally) an enemy to religious liberty and to people who cherish it is just that…pretending. God never called me to make-believe. I told my congregation that the way to love your enemies is not to shut your eyes, tap your ruby red slippers together three times, and say, “They’re not my enemy. They’re not my enemy. They’re not my enemy.” It is to look fully and deeply into the reality of people’s hatred of you and determination to kill or subjugate you, and then, in full light of reality, to choose to love them unconditionally nonetheless.

That is, after all, what Jesus did for us, as I reminded them.

Precisely because many Muslims are our enemies, our choice is to love them or to disobey Christ.

31 Joe Blackmon September 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Pretending that Islam is not (generally) an enemy to religious liberty and to people who cherish it is just that…pretending

And the sad thing is, you would be called a fear mongerin’ hate monger for making that very true statement.

32 Alan Cross September 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Joe,

The Bible tells us that the real enemy is Satan and his demons – we do not battle against flesh and blood.

As for our enemies here, we are commanded to love them and pray for them. We are commanded to forgive. The Cross of Christ, in its exlusivity actually makes us more human and more able to reconcile and forgive the people who flew planes into the soul of America to rip it apart.

We have a Savior who suffered unjustly and forgave us from the cross. As we sing, it was OUR sins that held him there.

33 Christiane September 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Thank you for writing this, ALAN.

34 Joe Blackmon September 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Please, show me where I said “Don’t pray for them”. I missed that part.

35 Alan Cross September 11, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Please show me where I said you didn’t.

36 Joe Blackmon September 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

As for our enemies here, we are commanded to love them and pray for them.

37 Alan Cross September 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Yes, Joe, that is a statement that applies to all of us – myself included. I was speaking of the disposition that we are all to have toward our enemies. Jesus told us that. Loving and praying for my enemies is something that is very hard for me – but, because Jesus loved and forgave me when I was His enemy, all things are possible.

38 Dave Miller September 12, 2011 at 12:32 am

A very good reminder, Alan. Thank you.

39 bapticus hereticus September 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Bart: I actually showed the video of Palestinians dancing in the streets on 9/11 ….

bapticus hereticus: Did you also show video clips or read transcripts from Palestinians that condemed the attacks?

40 BDW September 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Also worth pointing out that over 500,000 Palestinians are Christian.

41 Bart Barber September 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm

No, I did not. Nor did I mention Palestinian Christians. Nor did I focus on the idea of Palestinians at all. I simply made the point that the world is full of people who have chosen to be enemies of ours and who wish us harm. And then further that we are commanded expressly by Christ to love precisely people like that.

In a sermon about loving your enemies, it’s probably not very productive to spend most of your time talking about who is NOT your enemy. It seemed to me (and still does) that the most effective way to teach people about loving their enemies would be to pick the enemies that my congregation would be least likely to love, and then to challenge them to love exactly those people.

42 Alan Cross September 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Thanks for encouraging your church to love their enemies, Bart. We all need to be reminded of this. It does not come naturally. We need a miracle of God’s grace.

43 bapticus hereticus September 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm

When you made the decision to employ said visual, you also assumed the responsibiity to provide a context for how it is to be interpreted. Thus, to more centrally address your point of who is “not” your enemy: in letting this visual speak without its context, you likely led some people to incorrectly generalize who the enemy IS: Palestinians.

The Palestinians are not our enemy, but some Palestinians are. Your presentation failed to make that point and as such, you mischaracterized these people to make a point. And for that, you owe them an apology.

Your point would have been more balanced with the inclusion of other people groups, but then you would have had the problem of generalizing to religion rather than to culture. By adding orher people, it would have lessened the impact of a people group, but it would have still required contextual remarks. Same is said for religion. In any case, the video might have been powerful, but it was intellectually lazy and probably did harm that it might not have otherwise done.

You will not be the first to make this mistake, nor do I speak without fault in the use of visuals. Nor will you be the first to deny that you have made an error if you continue your present line of argumentation.

44 Christiane September 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I wonder, was the site of the video of the Palestinians cheering taken in Bethlehem ?
If so, was it any where near the Church of the Nativity?
How very, very strange to portray Palestine as an ‘enemy’. I have trouble with the portrayal.
Palestine is very dear to me as the birthplace of Our Lord.

Bethlehem, by the way, has a Muslim majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities.

45 Joe Blackmon September 12, 2011 at 6:26 am

So you don’t have a problem with them celebrating the attacks?

46 Dave Miller September 12, 2011 at 12:33 am

For what its worth, Bart, i thought it was an excellent approach.

47 Scott Gordon September 12, 2011 at 11:17 am

I followed much the same line. I took advantage of the IMB resources at lovingmuslims.com and adapted the provided 9/11 sermon outline based on Jonah for my message. It was a tough but beneficial challenge to us to realize God has called us to stand for truth, defend freedom, and love our enemies by our willingness to live out our Christian convictions and Great Commission calling to people of every ethnos.

48 David R. Brumbelow September 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

This morning we sang “God Bless America” as well as our regular songs. I preached from Luke 13:1-5.
David R. Brumbelow

49 Dave Miller September 12, 2011 at 1:29 am

I’m thankful for the delete button again.

One of my favorite things is to come home Sunday night after a long day (two services in the AM, one in the PM) and find out what nonsense has gone on here during the day. I deleted about 25 emails – ones that were offensive and some that simply responded to ones that were offensive.

50 Christiane September 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

something peaceful for midnight prayer after a sad day:
:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o95X6quZp54

“Where are love and charity, there God is.
Christ’s love assembles us as one.
Let us exult, and rejoice in him.
Let us fear and love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love each other. “

51 Jeff Musgrave September 12, 2011 at 3:04 am

I really have to get back in the groove around here. Harvest season and back to school are awful hectic. I always forget how crazy this time of year is until I actually hit it again.

52 Tim Rogers September 12, 2011 at 5:58 am

To All,

I think we need to get back to the reason the US was attacked. Were we as a nation attacked because Osama Bin Laden saw the US as a nation of people that would not submit to the will of Allah, or were we attacked because Bin Laden and his followers saw this nation as a Christian nation?

I believe the answer to that question will reveal much about the direction of the conversation.

Blessings,
Tim

53 Joe Blackmon September 12, 2011 at 6:25 am

Wasn’t at least part of the reason we were attacked out support for Israel?

54 Tom Parker September 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

Joe:

You said to L’s:”So you don’t have a problem with them celebrating the attacks?”

Come on Joe, she has never said that!

55 Joe Blackmon September 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

How very, very strange to portray Palestine as an ‘enemy’. I have trouble with the portrayal.

56 Christiane September 12, 2011 at 10:53 am

BETHLEHEM

‘ . .in Bethlehem, upon that morn, a bless’d Messiah was born . . .
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxDZjg_Igoc

57 Joe Blackmon September 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Here’s a link to remind everyone of what an evil, inhuman, barbaric, satanic religion Islam is.

http://aclj.org/iran/iran-upholds-christian-pastor-apostasy-conviction-execution-wednesday

These are not the terrorists or muslims extremists. These are your regular old everyday muslims.

58 Joe Blackmon September 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm

L’s, still think that Islam is not an evil, Satanic religion?

http://aclj.org/iran/iran-upholds-christian-pastor-apostasy-conviction-execution-wednesday

Allah is Satan and Muhamed is his child molesting false prophet.

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