Wake up callI lost a wife to lung cancer. After been touched by pain and tragedy I can never again be glib about the pain of others. On the anniversary of September 11th I look afresh at the impossible pictures. It is too much. The pain represented there is way too much for me to imagine much less understand. One year later it is still surreal. It still overwhelms.

I also understand when Sana Shah, a Muslim teen from Pakistan, asks “Why is an Afghan’s life worth any less than an American’s?” (TIME, September 11th, 66). The dominance of the global media by American media giants means that Americans and their stories will be told.

But mindless tragedies are not restricted to September 11th or the U.S. They are daily occurrences in places like Kashmir and Palestine.

Therefore the ultimate significance of the attacks on the World Trade Centre is that it is more than just an American tragedy. It is a human tragedy, a violent, bloody reminder early in the third millennium, of the failure of the gods of the day.

*There are those who want to impose their understanding of a righteous kingdom by any means possible. *There are those who believe that heaven on earth is technology led, business driven, and consumption fueled. (For this group, not much thought is given to life after death.) *There are those who believe that the only thing that matters is power. If you have enough power, political, military, economic, you can do anything you want.

September 11th is a loud wake up call that cries:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 16: 25 ESV

It is a call that comes first to the people of God, those who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately we have dallied too long at the altars of other gods. And so our own lives are compromised. And we have little to offer those who are looking for the real real thing. As TIME reminds us from their September 11th issue:

“The faithful talk of a spiritual revival, even though the pollsters say that the moment has passed; if we were on a spiritual journey, it does not necessarily pass through a sanctuary, and clerics from coast to coast must wonder whether they missed an opportunity they never expected to have, when they were flooded with people searching for answers but who, after waiting a few weeks, went looking elsewhere.” (28)

Perhaps when the searchers looked within the body of Christ, they didn’t see much that differed from what they already had. And had found wanting.

This should be matter of concern to the church. I see the discussion of September 11th and its aftermath framed in economic, political and military terms. I see little effort to understand it from a spiritual perspective. Attempts at spiritual analysis are often simplistic and outward looking — “The Muslims are evil after all” or “God is punishing America for its support of abortion” etc.

I see September 11th as a call for the church to reexamine itself. I was reminded of the following passage of Scripture when I heard it expounded recently, at a wedding of all places.

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve?” Joshua 24: 14-15a ESV

Choose this day whom you will serve. Choose this day whom you will worship. This is the first and primary question.

September 11th reminds us that the world is out of alignment with the God of life. But any attempt to realign it must begin with our own hearts.