I remember the day as if it were yesterday, okay maybe the day before yesterday. The summer months were drawing to a close, my first semester of school had just begun and for the first time in my life I was out on my own and it was nice. There was nothing inherently special or spectacular about this day to my knowledge, as it began for me just as any other Tuesday would with me fighting the alarm clock and wailing on the snooze button one too many times before finally deciding to get ready for class at the last possible moment.
Like every other Tuesday morning I found myself in my early morning music appreciation class, ironically this class made me appreciate music much less and the thrill of sleep much more. This class was followed by another that was to me even more horrendous than music appreciation: Women’s Chorus. This was a class that I learned to loathe in all of about two seconds of the first day. Our teacher or instructor, if you will, battled with a lot of emotional stress as she and her family continually fought the worsening condition of their father. The amount of stress and trauma that she endured over this particular weekend must have been enough to make her dismiss class almost an hour early, which I was absolutely excited about. Just so that we are on the same page, I want to clarify that I was excited about the early dismissal and not her state of mind.
I made up in my mind that I would go back to my room and go to sleep, but my plans were interrupted the moment I walked out of class. As I walked out, I passed a friend in the hallway that appeared to be trapped in a different universe. When I inquired about the expression on his face, he asked me if I had seen the news at all that morning or if I had listened to the radio at all and of course I had not since I had been in class all morning. After my response, he proceeded to explain to me the disaster that took New York City by storm after planes hit the two most prestigious towers that America or maybe even the world had ever know. As he recalled these events, I must admit that I had absolutely no clue of what the Twin Towers were neither the severity of what had just taken place.
Eventually, I left his company and went back to my dorm where I found dozens of students gathered in front of television sets in the hallways and in their rooms, all disturbed and anguished over what happened. It did not take too long before I got a better understanding of what was all taking place, as I listened to news report after news report retell the tragedy that brought America to her knees in a matter of moments. For the first time in America’s history terrorism became a reality and not just something that happened on foreign soil. This time we were the victims, this time we were the vulnerable ones, this time we were the weak ones!
The tragedy became what some would call a wakeup call as many began to reevaluate their lives and the things that were of most importance. All of a sudden people were going to church that were not going to church before and people were calling on God who had not so much as uttered his name in years outside of taking it in vain. But after the initial shock of it all, those few moments of devotion passed and it seemed like nothing really changed except for national security and our increased knowledge of terrorism, something that I am sure most people never thought of before. Church attendance dropped back to where it was, and the people who were maybe calling on the name of God gradually began to stop and forgot that he was there as they fell back into the routine of their normal lives.
What happened? Why did people back away from pursuing God? Did they wake up one day and feel that the initial threat was over and so believed that they no longer needed his protection much less his provision? I do not think that was the case because since then, the way that we have done things in this land has drastically changed. There is increased security in our airports, our hotels, our banks, our offices and everywhere else to protect the American people from the threat of anyone who seeks her downfall. People are more paranoid today than they were fifteen years ago, and not as a result of homicide but terrorism done at the hands of some radical fighting for a cause. This here shows that the elimination of fear or threat cannot be the thing keeping people from running after God but I then must continue to probe and ask what it is.
I must ask if God failed at some point-did he change or for any moment stop being true? Yet I confidently know that neither of these are true because God is as real and as true today as he was yesterday, last year, last century, and last millennium. Unlike the American economy, his character does not change every time the wind moves. He is not that temperamental two year-old who throws a fit every time he does not get his way. Of all things in this life, he is the only thing that you can count on. Well, you can also count on road construction, paying taxes and death, but you get my point.
I then must also ask if we as Christians have failed to do the gospel justice and represent Christ accurately. A lot of people would assert that this has a lot to do with it, but I am torn. Could we have stepped up our game, stopped compromising our walk, and thus led hundreds to the throne of Christ as a result of the trauma that lay before us? I think that we could have. But at the same time, we should have been doing these things beforehand so that people could see consistency over a span of time, instead of devotion in the heat of the moment. Otherwise what would have separated us from the people who started seeking God for the first time on account of this event, and us, who finally stopped being shady in regards to our relationship with Christ on account of this event. There would be no difference, because just like the person who backed away from Christ after the immediacy of terror subsided, we too, would step away.
I remember the Sunday after all of this happened there was a mass prayer meeting at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. There we prayed, fasted, sang, and called on God for the condition of our country. It was a beautiful sight to see, and God must have thought so too, as we stood there unified across denominational and racial boundaries, calling on the name of Christ together. God’s Spirit filled the stadium that day and it was absolutely wonderful. Yet, I believe that we need the Spirit of God in our country more today than we did on that fateful day of 9/11 as our country continues to die and waste away.
As I speak this, I am preaching to myself as well. I remember after 9/11 up until President Bush declared war on Iraq about eighteen months later, two seemingly unrelated events in my opinion, that I prayed for our country and its leadership intensely. I prayed that God would guide our President’s decisions, I prayed for our country’s peace and prosperity, and I prayed that the people in it would fall on their knees and recognize their great need for God. I do not know what happened to my fervency or my passion for this land over the years, perhaps I have gotten lost in my own needs and concerns. However in my heart I know that if God does not show up here soon we will amount to absolutely nothing.
I think that another piece of the equation is that the priorities of the people in our country, Christians included, have been deeply misplaced. We are so concerned about making our money, clothing ourselves, feeding ourselves, entertaining ourselves, and securing ourselves, that we do not have time to consider this Gospel that is anything but self-centered. This Gospel that Jesus preached is centered on laying down one’s life for the sake of another, and that message just does not easily fit into our consumer focused society. Even in my own life, I recognize how my priorities are not where they should be and that I am more focused on pleasing myself than meeting the needs of others who could really use a new jacket, sweater, or pair of shoes more than I.
Christ’s message, in my opinion, is neither popular inside or outside of the church. Inside of the Church, we barely have begun to grasp the real crux of this salvation message that Christ brings-that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Salvation we preach, salvation we sing, salvation we proclaim at the top of our lungs, but few people are truly getting saved, and very few lives are truly being transformed. Many would blame it on the rise of postmodernism, which in my opinion is the easy way out. In saying that postmodernism is the reason why people are not coming to Christ, we do not have to take responsibility for our actions and thus place the blame on the changing times, which I am sorry, is a very poor excuse when we know that throughout the ages Christians have faced many more obstacles than we do now. Throughout the ages, people have endured things such as stoning, flogging, crucifixion, exile, excommunication, imprisonment, and yet even in those times, people were coming to Christ by the droves.
More accurately we must realize that in this message of salvation that we preach, we have forgotten about sacrifice, about death, about giving, about denial! We seem to think that just because Christ paid it all there is nothing more for us to do, but we must come to wholeheartedly understand that rejoicing in Christ’s resurrection also means sharing in his suffering, and that loving this life means hating the next, and that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that the things that we hold today we will not necessarily see tomorrow! These are the things that we have forgotten, these are the essentials that we have lost sight of, and because of that we pay a price. My only prayer is that it will not take another tragedy to wake us up to what is most important and that we will listen to God’s voice now before we pay for the consequences of disobedience later.