A Commentary by Tom Campisi, TSV Editor & Publisher, New York
Our office is about 12 miles from the World Trade Center. So when someone told me that a plane had hit the Twin Towers, I immediately went to the window and, with the rest of the world, witnessed the surreal scene. In an instant, these landmark structures had been transformed into twin smokestacks that unwillingly spewed black and gray billows into the powder blue Manhattan sky.
The next time I went to the window, the Twin Towers were no more. Gone. Just a gigantic cloud of smoke hovered where these two skinny, steel giants once anchored the landscape. Throughout that fateful afternoon of September 11, I continued to look at that smoke cloud and tried to comprehend the destruction and pain it represented for the families of the dead, the city, and the nation.
That night the cloud of white, gray and black would not disappear behind the brisk September sky, climbing into the darkness while stealing light from illuminated New York skyline.
The next day (Wednesday, Sept. 12), the ominous cloud still hung over the metropolis. Underneath it, rescue workers tried to salvage life from a huge pile of steel, concrete and death. And like those workers, we searched amidst the wreckage of our own hearts for pieces of faith and courage.
On Thursday, like a faint watercolor of white on a blue canvas, the cloud was barely visible. A gentle wind had evenly scattered some of that smoke over the entire city. There was plenty of darkness and grief to go around, even in the Big Apple.
I wondered if we'd see any smoke at all by Friday. But late Thursday night, clouds of another kind began to form and a terrific storm rocked the region. The thunder and lightning were relentless and echoed deep into the night. After days of sunshine, rain now soaked the bruised and battered city. It was almost as if God himself was crying tears of heartache and compassion. Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus-how much more would a loving Heavenly Father cry when so many were violently murdered? In the thunder and lightning, you could almost sense God's anger. Surely, He had heard the lament of a nation and the prayers of His people.
In Psalm 18, David cried out for deliverance from his enemies. And God responded-
"The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because He was angry.
"Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down;
"Dark clouds were under his feet. He
mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-the dark rain clouds of the sky.
"Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded (vs. 7-13)."
What we need more than ever in the United States is to hear and act upon the resounding Voice of God. We need to repent for our sins and the sins of our country. We must pray that President Bush hears God's voice also as he leads our nation in an unprecedented battle against 21st Century terrorism at home and abroad.
And we must live out the favorite prayer of beloved New York City Fire Dept. Chaplain, Fr. Mychal Judge, who died inside the Towers as he pronounced last rites over a victim:
"Lord take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way."
America's Tragedy: Is God To Blame?
by Bishop Luther J. Blackwell, Jr.
Mega Church, Cleveland, OH
In the wake of this tragedy, people are asking questions. We are curious by design and we will search every available source in an attempt to make sense of the senseless and to make someone or something accountable for our collective grief and sorrow. Our inquiries will inevitably lead to the question: "Why did God allow this to happen?"
We will turn towards the heavens, point a finger at God and ask "why?" We will not point to single out God in expectation of an answer; we will point in accusation and blame.
However, this is not a time to blame God. What happened in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia is not a God problem; it is a human problem. Human beings with free will to worship and think as they wish made a conscious decision to dishonor life, including their own. This was not the will of a loving God, the creator of the very lives which man destroyed.
Man, after all, clearly decided to replace some of the necessary foundations, like prayer from our schools and workplaces, with meaningless moments of silence and reflection where most people think about their grocery lists instead of a Sovereign God of the Universe-a Supreme Being.
We blame God, and all the while put our faith in the godless-money, power, and prestige-all three of which collapsed along with the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In a few brief moments we learned that those things we have put our faith in can dissipate. Money, power, and prestige cannot and will never return the lives of those victims to their loved ones.
It is no wonder that things on which we have built our lives are crumbling, crashing, and falling down right before our eyes. But as they do, would it not be wise for us to have a solid foundation upon which this generation can firmly stand-prayer and the Bible? After all, our founding fathers certainly thought so.
In your seeking, give the church a chance. In your seeking, try to believe that there is a place that provides solace and peace during turbulence. In your seeking, choose to assemble with people who understand your pain and disbelief.
By my own admission, as a minister of the Gospel, we are not a perfect church. We are people who have offended and hurt in the name of God. We have failed to address your needs on many levels. But, the outcome of this tragedy is our growing desire to make amends; face our shortcomings; and offer healing.
We will not turn you away. We, an imperfect church, are awaiting you with open arms to comfort and assist you through this crisis. Allow us this privilege to serve you. Join others who share your sorrow. Grant us the opportunity to walk you beyond this horrendous tragedy to a timeless foundation of love, forgiveness, and peace.
Let us re-evaluate the question that the Psalmist raised in his day of misdirected priorities, and that being, "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11: 3 NIV)
The answer still lies in God, The Bible, and a daily seeking His face in fervent Prayer.
Will you please come to church?