And cause Thy whole nation and every tribe to know and understand that Thou art God, the God of all power and might, and that there is no other who protect the people of Israel but Thou alone!
Judith 9:14
As we do each year on September 11, we must all pause and reflect on the events of September 11, 2001. That was a day that time seemed to stop, as a terrorist attack on our country stole our sense of security. As I reflect on that terrible day, my thoughts and prayers go first and foremost to the thousands of souls that perished. They go to the lives of the survivors—those who were physically wounded, those who lost loved ones that are still grieving, those who responded to the tragedy that are still affected by this experience.
Twenty-two years ago, Americans stood together on the steps of the Capitol, in churches, in ballparks, in living rooms, and prayed to God for protection and help. Ironically today, many of those same people stand together in opposition to God. Our collective desire for peace and safety has turned into anger about personal rights.
I remember how proud I was twenty-two years ago, not only to be an American, but to be a Christian, as if for a few days, it was “cool” to stand up and say I belong to the God that we were asking to bless America.
Well, twenty-two years later, the world is no safer than it was back in 2001. In many ways, it is more dangerous. Not only because terrorists have more ways to hurt us. Not only because going to theaters and malls and schools have become risky propositions. But because we have found more ways to hurt one another. A terrorist doesn’t need guns and bombs to destroy us. Plenty of people have been destroyed with harsh words or mean emails or vicious rumors. And mass violence isn’t only a threat from known terrorist groups—plenty of acts of terror have been done by students in our schools, co-workers at our jobs and our neighbors.
Twenty-two years later, we must continue to ask God to bless America. We must continue to stand up and say “I belong to that God”. And as we ask God to stand beside us and guide us, we must stand with God and allow His guidance and faithfulness to inspire us to live in Him, and to live for Him.
True freedom is found not in insisting on what I want—true freedom is found in humility and gratitude, in taking up the cross and following, in living not for ourselves but for God. For everything we have will eventually pass away—for many on September 11, their passing was caused by a terrorist attack. But even if we live in peace and to a ripe old age, eventually everything will pass away. The only thing that will remain is a soul that is either filled with the Lord and prepared for everlasting joy, or empty of God and prepared for everlasting sadness. True freedom is found in Christ. Let us pray that our country remains a place of freedom—not only freedom to own things, to choose things and to express things, but a place to freely choose to freely worship the Lord who truly sets us free.
O Lord, our God, Creator and Sovereign ruler of all, who has blessed our country as a land of freedom and opportunity, we ask that You extend Your hand from heaven and place it upon our nation especially today, as we commemorate a dark and sad day in our history. We pray that You will grant rest to the souls of all those who died in faith on September 11, 2001. We pray that You will continue to grant healing to those who were wounded on that day, and that You will grant comfort to those who are still in grief over the loss of their loved ones. We ask that Your Holy Angels surround and protect the men and women of our armed forces, together with their families; that You will bless and guide the decisions of our President and all those in civil authority and public service. We beseech You that You will shine in our hearts and inspire us to work for peace in our nation and in our world. In places where there is violence, bring peace. In places of spiritual darkness, bring the Light of Christ. In places of sadness, bring joy. In places of hate, bring love. In places of turmoil, bring reconciliation. And in places of despair, bring hope. As You have guided and protect our nation both in times of war and times of peace, we ask for Your continued guidance and blessings on our nation and all those living in it. And as You created the world with Your powerful arm, we ask that You guide us to refashion it according to the way You created it and to honor all people in the way that You have created us, in Your image and likeness. Hear us, O God our Savior and help us, save us, have mercy on us and protect us by Your Grace. For You are the King of Peace and the Savior of our souls and to You we offer glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.