…You know, those days you can remember where you were and what you were doing.
…Those days that are forever burned in your mind and heart.
I was having a pastor’s fellowship meeting in my home that was to start around 9 AM (CDT). I was ready and so I thought I’d turn on the TV and watch something until my friends arrived. It must have been 8:03, because just as the TV came on, and as the announcers were talking about the plane that flew into the North Tower, a plane flew into the South Tower and a fireball erupted. There could be no doubt at that moment that America was under attack. We watched the rest of the morning as the Towers fell and the Pentagon got hit and wild rumors flew and United 93 went down in Pennsylvania.
And life in America has really never been the same since that morning 11 years ago today.
We used to have an innate sense of security, perhaps a smug security. It was shaken that day – shaken hard. Terrorism was something that happened “over there”. September 11 brought it to our doors. I remember sitting in my living room that night watching the news scrolling across the bottom of the screen (on Fox or CNN, not sure) saying that a terrorist cell has been uncovered in Cedar Rapids, IA, where I lived. It turned out to be a false report, but that shook me up a little. We could no longer feel completely safe again.
In some senses, we lost our optimism that day. Americans always held tenaciously to the hope that things were going to get better. Even when we had wars or recessions or tragedies, we were infused with a relentless optimism that the troubles were temporary and the march of American progress could not be stopped. Now, I do not see much of that optimism. People are not sure its ever going to get better. The buoyant confidence of Americans is draining dry.
It all changed on that fateful day. Three thousand people died that day and many lives were broken as well. But something else died as well – the safe and secure world we thought we lived in.
In this new world of threat and fear and war and recession, we have a secure hope. I love America, but if my hope is in the survival and prosperity of this great nation, it is misplaced. Perhaps 9/11 opened our eyes to reality. The old song says, “This world is not my home.” True. But it also cannot be my hope. I cannot trust in the freedom and prosperity, even the bright future, that once were thought to be a birthright in America. Such things have never been guaranteed to the followers of Christ and if we have to learn to live with less freedom and less prosperity, we will only be moving toward the historical norm.
But as Christians, our hope doesn’t change whether America prospers or fails. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and ambassadors of that Kingdom here on earth. We will seek to influence our communities and our nations, but we must not look to the red, white and blue for our security, our hope or our joy. We must look to the Cross.
We sometimes forget what a unique world we have lived in. For much of its history, Christianity (not Christendom, but genuine gospel Christianity) has lived in hostile conditions, under persecution and poverty. The early Christians didn’t expect the government to pass laws to change lives. They knew that only the gospel could do that. And sometimes we need to be reminded of that truth. It is a great blessing in America to be able to be involved in the political process and we have a responsibility to use our influence as Christians. But we must never trust in this world, in politics, or even in our beloved country to make things right.
Everything changed on September 11, 2001. But if that day of horror and its continuing aftermath serves as a wake up call for the church and reminds us of our ultimate duty to serve the King and the Kingdom and to be its faithful ambassadors, then a good thing will rise from the ashes. If we become less enthralled with the things of this world and more enthused about eternal things – the Cross and the Risen Lord who purchased our future there – then blessing will come from Al-Qaeda’s curse.
May it be so.