Eighteen years ago, on this day September 11th, the world of every citizen in our nation was rocked as we heard the hard to believe news that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Centre. Like me, you can probably remember where you were on this day just as our grandparents remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
I was in 5th grade. The day was like any other. We had just finished some of our daily lessons and were expecting our teacher to continue reading through Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone when the day took a somber turn. The teachers gathered all us kids into our respective classrooms in fear of possible bomb threats. We were all to stay within our classrooms and were not allowed to leave. I remember thinking, “Is this some kind of drill?” After all, we have fire drills all the time.
But it wasn’t a drill… Sort of.
There was no bomb threat at the school, but something terrible had happened in New York City, my teacher told us. She turned on the TV in our classroom and we all watched the news in fear and disbelief as we learnt what had happened at the World Trade Centre.
For the next few weeks, suddenly everyone became religious again. The pews in previously empty churches filled up again, looking for answers…
Looking for hope.
The age-old question of suffering came up. “Why would God allow this to happen?” many asked. “If God is good, why would He let this happen?” Afterwards, people got the medication they wanted and the pews became empty again.
Just as Lent is a time of repentance, so 9/11 should be a time of repentance for us as well. Consider the words of Jesus, “‘Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish'” (Luke 13:4-5).
We can apply this question to us today on this horrid anniversary. Those thousands upon whom the planes crashed and the towers and debris fell, do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in the rest of the country? No, they are not. Unless we repent, we, too, shall likewise perish, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Repentance has two parts: Law and Gospel. The Law convicts us of our sins and brings us before God to repent of our sins, and at the same time we are given the Gospel for the forgiveness of our sins.
September 11, 2001 was a terrible day. So, why do we remember it? On Twitter, the hashtag #NeverForget is trending. We remember this day so we never forget the lives that were tragically lost. We should also remember this day so we #NeverForget to repent.
We should remember our sins, both our own sins and the sins of our nation, and repent of them. And as we repent and cling to the promise of the Gospel, we also remember the hope we have in Jesus Christ—the hope people were desperate for as they filled the church pews. We repent because “the wages of sin is death,” but we have the hope and promise that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
September 11th, then, is also a day to remember the hope of eternal life we have in Christ Jesus. And this is not a worldly hope—a hope that rests on a coin flip. Christian hope is a knowing. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We have not yet seen the bodily resurrection—that is, eternal life—but we have the hope, the knowing, that this is to come in Jesus Christ because Jesus Himself was raised from the dead, in whose resurrection we also share by virtue of our Baptism (Romans 6:1-5).
As you remember those who were tragically lost and grieve, #NeverForget also the promise and hope of the resurrection we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.