Summary: This sermon uses the tragic events of Sept. 11 and 2 Chron 7:14 to call the Church to repentance.

Terror from the heavens

By Norman Miller

preached at New Hope Baptist Church

September 16, 2001

September 11, 2001---a day emblazoned in the collective American memory---a day that has burned into my heart an emotional collage of sympathy, anger, grief, love, and, yes, forgiveness.

At 8:45 a.m. last Tuesday morning, a Boeing 767--carrying, mercifully, only about half its passenger capacity, and weighing almost 200 tons and also carrying about 20,000 gallons of aviation fuel--slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Like millions in America and around the world, I watched the television news reports of the tower one tragedy when at 9:06 I saw the second Boeing 767 jetliner pierce the concrete and steel and glass of the south tower and then belch out the opposite side a murderous fireball.

I simply could not believe my eyes. What I saw reminded me of a life-sized video game scenario. But, what happened was not virtual reality--it was real-time tragedy.

Could it get worse? Yes, it could.

Thirty-two (32) minutes later, at 9:38 a.m., a Boeing 757--which, like the other planes carried about half its passenger capacity, and weighing almost 130 tons and carrying about 11,000 gallons of fuel--breached the 2-feet-thick walls of the Pentagon.

What next, God? What next? Surely this nightmare will end.

No, not for us. But some who had to choose between a death by fire or by falling, they jumped from the twin towers of the World Trade Center into eternity. One couple held hands as they plummeted some 1,000 feet to their deaths. Others, bless God, made their way out. One woman descended the stairs from the 92nd floor, giving hope that many more did the same.

Soon after the Pentagon was attacked, at 9:50 a.m., the upper portion of the south tower of the World Trade Center succumbed to the intense heat that had weakened its structural supports, and it fell into the tower’s lower floors, ultimately "pancaking" the 110-story structure into a pile of rubble and carnage barely two stories tall.

For those who were trying to hold their chins up in the midst of these diabolical acts, the stark realization came that it was but a matter of time until the north tower relented to the 200-ton, 20,000-gallon bomb that invaded the private office spaces of American and international businesses.

And the burden that compassionate souls around the world bore was increased again 10 minutes later, at 10 a.m., with the news that a fourth jetliner, another Boeing 757--again, mercifully, at about half its passenger capacity--had nose-dived into the rural soil of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving a silhouette of the plane in the dirt.

At 10:30 a.m., it was hard for me to be horrified or terrorized any more. My heart couldn’t have sunk any lower in my chest, nor could I have sunk any deeper into my chair as I watched the World Trade Center’s north tower buckle and yield to what President Bush called the attack of a "faceless coward."

I stared at the television, frozen with fright, gripped by grief, tense with terror, and numbed into a dreamlike semi-consciousness by the nefarious deeds of cowards without conscience.

The death-toll rises as do the questions?

A local paper has commented that pastors should not let their parishioners believe that God did this.

Couldn’t God have stopped this tragedy? Yes, He could have. But I submit that God has stopped many tragedies in our past as he is a loving, merciful, and slow-to-anger kind of God. Do any of you parents like to spank your children?

One common question is, Why did God let this happen?

Countless preachers, pastors and other religious figures are saying this is a wake-up call to America--a spiritual wake-up call.

While preaching at Friday’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance observance at the National Cathedral in Washington. D.C., Dr. Billy Graham said, "One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in America...a spiritual revival... And God has told us in his Word time after time that, we are to repent of our sins and return to him and He will bless us in a new way."

I was never happier to hear Dr. Graham preach the gospel as he shared that eternal message of hope with people around the world. And he was the only cleric who spoke that got any recognition from the crowd--a standing ovation.

But the question remains: Would God really allow 5,000 (or more) people die in order to get our attention? Would he let such a thing happen so it might serve as a wake-up call to saints and sinners alike?

I say yes. It is absolutely within His permissive will to allow evil to succeed in order to get the attention of His people. This is one of the ways He has worked in the history of Israel. So it shouldn’t surprise us that he has allowed this diabolical evil to transpire in order to get the attention of Christians in America and around the world--those, who, according to Romans chapter 11, are "spiritual Israelites."

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