There are few moments in history when you can remember exactly where you were at a particular time. For those who are baby-boomers or older will probably recollect where they were when John F Kennedy was assassinated, when they heard about the death of Elvis Presley or the tragic loss of Princess Diana. But nothing has rocked the world in the past 50 years more than the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, now known as 9/11.
At the time I was working with Focus on the Family and had already planned to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Canberra. As part of the trip, my colleague Ray and I had made arrangements to speak at a church on the Sunday morning.
Getting to Canberra presented its own problems. Our wives were concerned about us flying only two days after the Twin Towers attack. Airport security was high and we were stringently searched at the departure and arrival gates with staff going through our belongings looking for anything that might pose a threat.
On Sunday morning we arrived at the church early to meet with the pastor and join in a time of prayer before the service began. I was nervous as I sat there, contemplating how I could give focus to the family issues I was to speak about. While we sat there the young pastor recounted his sleepless night, seeking the Lord earnestly for His divine guidance for the message he’d give that day. What do you say at a time like this? How do you lead and reassure your people when many think that the events that have unfolded in the past few days will herald in an era of global religious war?
It was a hard service for all of those who participated. I’m sure every pastor or leader who spoke that Sunday understands what I’m talking about.
Later in the day we attended a dinner hosted by the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship after which we sat in the old House of Representatives for the annual meeting. At the conclusion of business one of the MPs invited those who were interested to join him for a time of prayer under the spire of the new Parliament House. Usually the public aren’t permitted there, but each year this particular MP is granted permission to take people there for this purpose.
The night air was chilly and the mood sombre as we walked up the damp grass towards the pyramid shaped dome that sits under the flag pole. That night the stars seemed brighter than usual. The sky was cloudless and the Southern Cross was prominent amid the background of the Milky Way.
As we stood there in silent reflection I felt as if I was standing in the centre of this great nation. It was as though our futures would pivot on this very spot. The implications of all that took place that week seemed to crescendo at that moment. Would Australia ever be the same again? How would the world respond? Was war imminent? What about my daughters and their futures? The weight of these questions became heavy as I contemplated what lay ahead for us all.
And then perspective came as a Federal Member launched into prayer, calling on the name of Jesus Christ to deliver our nation in these dark times. We stood there as a group of about twenty, holding hands in a circle, praying for the nation, our families, our politicians and Christian leaders.
As I looked up at the enormous flag fluttering in the slight breeze overhead, it reminded me of an event that is now marked on every calendar in the land…the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary.
On that day the people stood looking up at Jesus on the cross. Some, who witnessed the brutality inflicted on Christ, looked up, beat their breast but walked away. Those who knew Him, stood at a distance, watching all that had taken place. Tears were shed as those faithful followers of Christ looked up and asked questions similar to mine. What will come of this?
The scriptures tell us of the events following Christ’s crucifixion. His resurrection brought new life to us all. It gave us hope for the future and a promise of an eternity with God.
While we stood in the circle praying, Ray was the only person I knew that night, but all were galvanised together with one desire to see Australians develop a strong spiritual life based on faith with Jesus Christ.
As you hear about 911 once more this week, I encourage you to seek a godly perspective through it all. Pray for our nation regularly, especially our Christian politicians. Pray that their decisions will always be made with the preface “What would Jesus do?”