At 8:30 a.m., on September 11, 2001, I was listening to Alison Krauss in the car on the way to
the office. It was a beautiful fall morning in Nashville. The sun was shining. The leaves were turning. Life was good.
A womens Bible study meets at the Otter Creek church on Tuesday mornings. I parked the car among the gathering crowd and made my way into the building. I was looking forward to greeting my sisters in Christ and eating some of the goodies they always set out.
The foyer was stone quiet. Everyone was gathered in the auditorium looking up at the video screens, horror and tears glistening in their eyes. I entered to see reports of the first jet slamming into the World Trade Center in New York. We watched in disbelief as a second jet hit the towers. I added my stricken No! to the chorus of groans and shouts as the Towers collapsed.
The Pentagon had been hit. The capital had been evacuated. The President was rushed to Louisiana and then Nebraska. We took it all in, each piece of news a fresh body blow. And when we could stand no more, we fell into each others arms and went to our knees and sobbed out our prayers to God.
The smoke and carnage left a mark in New York and Washington. And it left a mark on you and me. The events of that awful day have confronted us with a more basic commonality, a shared conspiracy on the part of Gods people to live below the radical and exhilarating demands of the gospel. We are all living safely within the limits of a domesticated faith. We have all tamed the wild call of the gospel. We are practicing a too-familiar religion and attempting to worship a house-broken Lord. Our liturgy comforts rather than convicts us. Our theology profits and prospers us rather than calling us to sacrifice and pushing us toward suffering.
And perhaps that was permissible in a pre-September 11th world. Perhaps comfort and safety and profit and stability were appropriate watchwords in the world we once knew. Perhaps. But no more. Surely something more, something other than those values must move Gods people today. It wasnt just the towers that collapsed September 11. It was an entire edifice of religious complacency that fell down as well. What we, the church of Jesus, will erect in its place is still uncertain. One thing is clear: comfort zones and timidity can no longer be foundational.
September 11 was a defining moment for me. I could not ignore what had happened because my church and my community could think of little else. The images haunted me. The evil disturbed my sleep. The grief for the victims and their survivors caught me at unexpected times. The nobility of the rescue workers, the outpouring of sympathy and help from the nation, moved me in unique ways.
And I was all over the map emotionally. I felt sorrow and outrage, sympathy and pride. I wanted to hand out water to thirsty workers and vengeance to hardhearted killers. I prayed for mercy and prayed for retribution. I struggled with what it meant to be Christ-like in the face of such demonic activity. I wasnt sure what Jesus would do. I didnt know how he would react.
The events of September 11 provide us a God-given opportunity for us to examine ourselves, to consider whether we are living up to our high calling, to think about what it means to be Gods people in times such as these. These events are certainly a wake up call to our nation. But they also shake the church by the shoulder and arouse us from spiritual slumber.
It is times like these when heroes are needed. Times like these call out for vision and dedication and sacrifice. As Gods people, we have a chance to look this evil in the eye, to shake off our apathy and materialism, and to get busy with the work God has for us to do.
Whether these words will encourage you to audacious Christian living, I cannot say. But the people of God need something to wake us from our slumber and call us once again to a purpose worthy of Christs cross and Gods people.
Lord, thy most pointed pleasure take
And stab my spirit broad awake;
Or, Lord, if too obdurate I,
Choose thou, before that spirit die,
A piercing pain, a killing sin,
And to my dead heart run them in.
(From The Celestial Surgeon by Robert Louis Stevenson)
©2001 by Tim Woodroof. From the book We Can Be Heroes: A Call to Greatness for the People of God. To order this powerful little book, call (800) 863-5665.
Title: "A Wake-Up Call for Sleepy Christians"
Author: Tim Woodroof
Publication Date: September 11, 2002