In a few days, we will reach the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Like other monumental days in American history, such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, those who lived through such occasions can vividly remember the details and emotions of the day.
For me, there are many moments from that day that feel just like they happened yesterday. However, one part of the day is especially on my mind: going to church. My home congregation at the time hosted a brief prayer service on the evening of 9-11. Parishioners gathered to look up to the Prince of Peace as we reflected on the vicious attacks of that day.
The service began in prayer: “Heavenly Father, God of peace and harmony, You would have Your children on earth live together in peace and quietness. Nevertheless, in Your wisdom You have permitted this attack of terror to be unleashed against our nation. Watch over, we pray, all those whose lives have been impacted by this tragedy. Heal the injured, comfort those who mourn, and give patience and strength to those who must now wait to learn the fate of their loved ones. Give endurance to all police, fire, and medical personnel as they struggle to attend to the needs of the injured. To all those involved in the investigation of these attacks, grant patience and diligence as they go about their important work of identifying those who have brought about this great suffering. Frustrate any further attacks that may be planned, and guide the leaders of our nation so that they may act wisely in response to this crisis. Above all, enable Your holy Church to speak Your comforting Word of peace in Jesus Christ, so that in the midst of this dying world we all may know the true source of our hope; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
While that prayer is specific to the situation of 9-11, much of it still applies. We continue to pray that peace will prevail, that violence will be prevented, and that those in authority will have the wisdom needed to respond to crises.
Following 9-11, many churches around America saw a surge in attendance. 9-11 was a jarring reminder that we are not guaranteed safety and security in this sin-wracked world. Many people saw 9-11 as a call to “return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13), and understandably so. Such events remind us that true security is found not in earthly safety nets but in the loving, everlasting arms of Jesus.
From the ongoing pandemic, to the many natural disasters unfolding around the world, to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, it seems we are being reminded on an almost daily basis to look up to the Lord for help and hope. Life is full of these wakeup calls. May God grant that we pay attention to such things and see them as reminders to return daily to Him!
When asked about the reason why a particular ancient tragedy happened (a tower collapse that killed 18 people), Jesus chose not to offer a reason. Instead, He turned to His hearers and used this teaching moment to remind them that they too needed to live in repentance and faith. (Luke 13:1-5) And so do we.
We will remember many things on this 20th anniversary of 9-11: personal recollections, the longterm impact of these terror attacks on our nation, and much more. First and foremost, though, let’s remember to look up to the Lord.