I remember 9-11 as if it was just last year. I was at home working on a sermon when Meri called out that a plane had struck the World Trade Towers in NYC. I wanted to believe it was an accident. Then a second plane hit and it became obvious we were under attack. I stopped and prayed for the people in the building and for our president and military to have insight and wisdom with how to protect our people. Airports began to shut down. People who worked in the high rises of downtown Atlanta began to leave work. Parents began to go to the school to take home their children. The phone rang and it was Tim, my associate pastor. People were showing up at the sanctuary for prayer and counsel. By the end of the day, we talked and prayed with over 200 people who were distraught, shocked, worried about loved ones and needing spiritual direction. The next night we had our midweek worship service. The sanctuary was packed with our members and many visitors. The president had now verified that terrorists were behind the attacks and I heard for the first time the name of their group, "Al Qaida, a group of Muslim extremists using religion as a front for a holy war against their enemies in the West.
The days and weeks that followed awakened in our country a loud cry and desire for spiritual connections. Our worship services were overflowing like it was Easter Sunday. We had to start new Bible studies for all the seekers who came our way. We treated our neighbors with more humility and concern. We prayed for friends and strangers alike. It seemed everyone wore a flag lapel pin or flew one from their house. Then in six months, it seemed that our spiritual antennas had gone back down. Worship crowds returned to pre-9/11 levels, Bible study registrations dropped and flags were put back in storage waiting for July 4 to come around again.
Looking back at 2001, are you any different? Are we a better people, a more thankful and patriotic nation? Have you learned that real security cannot be gained through military might and isolation? I value our military and am proud of the ways they have defended freedom diligently in the last decade. I pray for them everyday. Yet I know that my true freedom and security is found in my faith in Jesus Christ. He alone gives me the grace and hope that I need in this life and for the one to come.
Have you learned that our real enemy is the evil one who gives rise to movements of terrorism and killing innocent people in the name of religion or whatever selfish cause. The real enemy is the one we should protect ourselves from and we do this by trusting in Jesus Christ. For me, 9/11 awakened in me and I think many others a realization that this life is temporal and that spiritual things last forever. It also taught me that being a good neighbor should be my practice in seasons of peace and war; that innocent people suffer when evil uses men and women to promote its cause.
The people of God have a huge mission to demonstrate the love of God on every continent. We are called to do this through sending missionaries into lands where Christ is not known. To support them with our love, prayers and finances. We are called to go to our neighbors down the street, across this nation and into all the world and share the Good News of God's love in Jesus to all people. This is our best weapon against tyranny, oppression and every form of evil that we contend with.