What Should Be Preached On 9/11?

This world trade.jpgSunday marks ten years since that awful day, September 11, 2001. On that day, terrorists hijacked four different passenger jets in an attack against the United States. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. It was an event that shook much of the world and certainly the United States.

Now ten years later, this Sunday morning, men and women will be in churches throughout the country. No doubt, people will be talking, praying, etc. regarding this ten year marker.

I would love to know what you think about the following questions. The first question is addressed to anyone who plans to be in a church service this Sunday morning.

The second question is specifically addressed to preachers.


  • What should be preached this Sunday regarding 9/11? What do you hope is not said? (Or, should anything be said?)

  • If you are preaching this Sunday, what do you intend to say regarding 9/11? (Or, if you have chosen to say nothing, how did you arrive at this decision?)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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56 thoughts on “What Should Be Preached On 9/11?

    • Darryl,

      (See KSZ’s comment below.)

      Darryl, I am still working with this. Two issues that I plan to address are:

      *The temptation to put our confidence somewhere other than the Lord. 9/11 exposed our vulnerability, as has the economic crisis that we are experiencing. Almighty God is the only one worthy of our confidence and security.

      *Our ultimate battle in this life is not between “flesh and blood.” Rather, we are in a raging battle with powers and principalities.

  1. I am preaching this summer from the sermon on the mount and using this Sunday Matt 5:11-12 – I don’t know that I will connect the dots between what happened to us and righteousness because I am not sure it is the reason we were attacked but I think that the application of responding to persecution, slander, and other evil based from following Jesus in a Godly way will preach.

    also will thank those who serve (we are in a military community

    • Tom, thanks for this comment. Your comment reminds me of the practical decisions that a preacher must make regarding a day like this. For example, a preacher must decide whether to continue a present series or to preach an individual sermon that day. Then there is the purpose to consider. “What is my purpose for preaching this particular message on this day? What is the focus and function of this sermon?

  2. I don’t plan to be preaching this Sunday but after a lot of years of ministry in and out of the pulpit I think I know how I would respond to the question.
    I see it as a unique opportunity to highlight the level of heroic commitment exhibited by the brave men and women who ran into those burning buildings to save others. To me there is an eloquent parallel to what Jesus did for us.
    Satan will forever be the father of all terrorism because being the coward that he is, he hides in the shadows and still masquerades as an angel of light with a bloody mission.
    I think I also would call on my brothers and sisters to rise to the call of Jesus to be courageous enough to forgive our enemies and reach out to all with the “good news” of God’s love. There is always someone in our daily walk who is looking for a better way to make sense of what doesn’t make sense.
    Thank you Jim, I love you brother. ks

    • Kent,

      I like your response. Very good. Thanks for this. I like what you say here regarding the parallel to Jesus and the cross. This is very fitting.

      I appreciate and value your words, my friend.

  3. Jim; Great question and I could think of several quick responses, some of which have been mentioned but I want to mull this over. I think I’ll respond via my blog this week, if that’s okay with you. I need to ponder first.

  4. Personally, I’m continuing with the series we are doing on the Seven Churches of Revelation. I speak to the bilingual group at our church.

    Were I speaking to the larger group, I’d be tempted to go with “Some trust in horses, others in chariots”…

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. I’m in a series called, “Facedown: In Awe of God,” and am preaching on the unchanging nature of God. We also started a small group for Navy SEALS on base last Thursday night. We’re asking them to bring their non-Christian friends to some church members homes off-base. We’re going to feed them, let them watch some football, and get to know them. We meet in the evening, so this little service project will be during the day Sunday.

    • Tim, I really like the title of this series. Somehow, in a world that may appear to be spinning out of control, this seems so appropriate.

      (The group for Navy SEALS sounds very exciting. What an opportunity!)

  6. We are in the middle of The Good and Beautiful God and our topic this week just so happens to be “God is Self-Sacrificing.” I plan to use at least one story of self-sacrifice from 9/11/2001 and talk about self-sacrifice as the highest act based on John 15:13. Christ followers are unique in that we follow a God who generously gave himself for us.

    • Jim, this Sunday I am preaching on “Ground Zero and the Gospel”. This idea was stolen from the cover story of the last Christianity Today. I am approaching it from the stand point that we get emotional about what happened, dogmatic about the memorial and what goes on at it, and how all of this has changed us (suggest that everyone read what William Willimon had to say in the article). Then I am going to talk about another tragedy, and do we still get emotional about it, and how it has changed us. Closing with the thought,that the cross needs never to be forgotten.

      • Hi Bill,
        Glad you mentioned the current issue of Christianity Today. I thought the entire focus on 9/11 was handled very well. Great to hear from you.

  7. Were having our international-friend & neighbor day this Sunday so to connect the idea of neighbor with 9/11, I’ll be preaching from Zechariah 3.1-10 focusing on the neighbors coming together under the gig tree (v. 10) as the promise for a day when war and terrorism will end and peace will be.

  8. Only interesting ideas.
    I’ll preach from Matthew 7:1 “Don’t judge”. It may look a little bit strange to preach not to judge in a day when America is to remember one of the darkest days of its modern history and maybe the need for revenge is still present in many minds.
    But that’s the way I understand the message of Christ: the fact that a few evil-minded men killed thousands of innocent people, is not sufficient to judge or to condemn large groups, ethnics, or even other nations, and I reffer here to the muslims. We must love muslims now more than before 9/11 because we realize their deep need to be saved. Jesus loves them too and gave His life for them, so every muslim is a potential saved soul and we must not forget this truth. I am afraid that 9/11 might put a gap beetween christians and muslims, and I think that we, the christians, must not allow this to happen.
    We are the prophets of love and that’s what I intend to preach. Love, not revenge, nor judgment.
    Be blessed!

    • Cornel, don’t know if you saw this or not, but you might want to check the current issue of CT regarding 9/11. In the feature peace, there are comments about the very issue you are focusing on. Just thought you might find this helpful.

  9. Brother,

    My sermon is “Christian Hope: Rising Above the Tragedy”. I will open with excerpts from “Let’s Roll”, the book from Todd Beamer’s wife, which deal with the Christian’s response to tragedy and trial. How is it that some folks are able to rise above their circumstances, while others in the same circumstances crumble?

    I believe the answer is HOPE in Christ Jesus.

    However, after reading Kent’s earlier comment, I have rewritten my altar call to draw a parallel between the first responders’ willingness to sacrifice to Jesus and the cross.

    That’s a beautiful thought … and a great way to end the sermon.

    Thanks Kent and Jim.

    • I’ve been thinking about the word “hope” this week. Maybe it is because I just read Mark Hamilton’s (ACU) commencement address delivered at Austin Graduate School of Theology. He centers his remarks around hope. Anyway, this sounds really good.

  10. Some moments in life are defining. Those who were old enough can remember where they were and how the felt and how they responded with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, the Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11. I have in mind to begin there and work toward God at work in and through our own defining moments and within the defining moments of others. Anything Satan has made bad, God can make good. I’ll be working with 2 Corinthians 1:12-22….

    Glory to God!


  11. Jim,

    I am in a series called “Vises of Life” which is focused on the pressures of life that seem to pinch us. I planned this week to focus on the vise of life — unfairness and suffering. I am working on the lesson and will incorporate ideas from these blog comments. But the main thought will be around an apologetic for dealing with the unfairness and suffering as experience on 911 and in our own lives everyday. That evening I will discuss the vise of life — Conflict and Mistreatment and also tie in 911 and post 911 wars into this discussion and try to relate it to personal conflict and mistreatment with others.

    Thanks for the help.

    Josh Ketchum

    • Hi Josh,
      I like the title of your series. It is interesting how many people can relate to a message focused on unfairness and suffering. I think we would be amazed if we knew how much the various people sitting in one room are really dealing with.

  12. At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, we are suspending the usual scripture readings from the Lectonary – and using instead the scriptures in The Book of Common Prayer – “For Peace.” (ie. love your enemies, swords into ploughshares, etc.). The assistant minister & I are each offering a Reflection on Peace, in place of the sermon. Each reflection will be followed by a music meditation. The hymns, prayers, etc. all reflect the prophetic vision of peace in God’s kingdom.

  13. I am a bit concerned that some churches are going to overdo it. I think a dignified moment of silence, special prayer, etc., would be a nice touch. But I am anticipating that lots of flag waving, Lee Greenwood stylings and playing on emotions will be the order of the day at some evangelical churches.

  14. I have struggled with this topic since I realized that Sept 11 fell on a Sunday and that this was the 10th anniversary. I frequently look to the lectionary for starting points and one of this weeks passages stood out – Psalm 103. The main focus that hit me as I read – in a world that has changed so dramatically, God is still God, the unchanging one who cares for His people.

  15. Jim,

    I actually made a change to my sermon calendar when I realized that this was the tenth anniversary. My thoughts are much like yours in regard to security only being found in the Lord. My text is Psalm 121 -“..Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.” I’ll be commenting on how many Americans were looking up after the tragedy, including Congressional leaders praying on the steps of the Captial. I’ll also talk about how life has changed since 9-11 and how with the assurnace of God’s presence we can choose to live in prepardness without caving in to paranoia.

    • This sounds very good, Wade. I like the reference to what happened after the tragedy when we immediately looked up. Kind of a reminder that so often when we hit a wall in life, we seem to realize again, that there is really no one else to depend on but God.

  16. My topic for this Sunday day is “Happiness Under Attack” and will also be focusing on Matt. 5:11-12. I will be mentioning the human sinful nature to attack happy lives from the beginning of human history, referencing Cain killing Abel–as the “losers” are jealous of the blessed God-loving Americans. Then will talk about how to stay happy. This is also the beginning of the nine-week HAPPINESS series. Happiness is defined in this series as the Kingdom life–“In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11b) The devil wants you to fail and be miserable by knocking you out of God’s kingdom life. So don’t lose your happiness even in times of persecution.

  17. Samuel, this is a text that I like and yet have used it very little. Seems like there is much in this Psalm to work with, especially the reminder here of incredible joy that comes from living in the presence of God.

  18. I am haunted by one preacher’s question — do we so focus on the day, Sept. 11, 2001, because we don’t want to talk about what has happened since? 2 wars, hundreds of thousands dead, a crashing economy and Americans who can barely talk to each other. I would feel unministered to if none of that was mentioned.

  19. Jim, Still not completely settled on what I’m going to say.

    Here’s what I won’t say:
    1. That we’re in a war of good vs evil. Every Christian should know this much already whether 9-11 ever happened or not. But, said in a pulpit on an anniversary of 9-11 only fuels the wrong kind of nationalist sentiment.

    2. That 9-11 is merely another endtimes sign. First, that one’s been beaten to death by every televangelist on the planet. Second, it implies that all the other endtimes signs since Paul wrote to Timothy were somehow less significant. Third, it shifts the emphasis from an ethical response to endtimes to a clockwatcher response. Not good. Not Biblical.

    3. That we’ve all just misunderstood the Muslim faith and with more and better education, toleration and love, then world peace will surely come among us. That’s first of all, dangerously naive and more importantly, it’s bad theology.

    I can give you an outline of what I DID say back on September 16, 2001 in a message title that I borrowed from Pres. Bush’s speech at Washington National Cathedral on September 14, 2001.

    The Middle Hour of Our Grief, Luke 13:1-9

    Observations on how people behave in the midst of disaster. Jesus turns the tables on all our audacious questions in our times of testing. (“Why did God let this happen?”) His lesson is worth hearing again. If our nation heeds the lesson Jesus gave, we could see a great spiritual re-awakening emerging out of the terrible tragedy that occurred this past week on a day to be long remembered in America— September 11, 2001. In the midst of personal, community or national disaster …

    I. People Seek …
    A. People seek community
    B. People seek to help
    C. People seek for God
    II. People Blame …
    A. People blame each other
    B. People blame religious fervor
    C. People blame God
    III. People Pontificate (Play God)
    A. People want vengeance
    B. People want power over evil
    C. People want knowledge of Christ’s return
    IV. God Is
    A. God is sovereign, Luke 13:1-5. (Our job is to repent.)
    B. God is just, Luke 13:6. (God, the fig tree owner.)
    C. God is patient, Luke 13:7-9. (Christ, the gardener.)

    • Thanks very much Charlie. Good thoughts, both those that you will not communicate and those which you did communicate 10 years ago.

  20. I will be continuing my series on the gospel of Luke. Our text this Sunday is Luke 3:21-38, the baptism and genealogy of Jesus. I think Luke places these two texts together to tell us something about the identity of Jesus. I will be talking about this and our identity as Christians living in a post-9/11 world. A comment that really struck me from this months issue of Christianity Today was from William Willimon. He said, “I have resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem…”

  21. I was planning on continuing my series, but now I believe that I need to mention September 11. Islamic terrorists were bent on death and destruction. They had a misison from Hell. Yet here we are as Christians with the message of hope and salvation, not death. Our mission is from God.

    The horror of Islamic terrorism seems to ring true to Nineveh, the great and wicked city. Jonah was sent to reach them with a message from God. Instead he ran. The question then lingers like dust on a dry day, will we offer the message of God to a wicked people? God has called us to make disciples of all nations. Will we go? Will we risk our life to reach those who wish to murder us? Jonah suddenly seems human.

  22. I’ve designed a service called “TWENTY9/11” and am preaching from Jeremiah 29:11. God has a Love, has a Plan, has a Time.

  23. I am reminded of the story of Job and how he had it all. he was rich and had plenty of things. but satan took everything he had, it was taken away from him and he lost everything. loved ones and his riches and his own health, but he clung to his faith even through anger and all the emotions that im sure he dealt with. and in the end he was victorious but only through the Grace of God. Thanks to all that have written here,

  24. Jim, Thank you and everyone who commented here, and KZS on her blog (I tried to comment on her blog, but apparently I’m not high-tech enough or something, ha!). It really helped yesterday.