This past Sunday was Cowboy Church for Grace Bible Church. We had a good time out in the park, the food was great, and the kiddos enjoyed riding horses.

What most people do not know is that I was outside of my comfort zone.

Cowboy Church is an idea that predates me at this church. I am new (in my first year) but this Sunday has been around for a few years. One of the deacons (who is primarily a cattle farmer – Red Angus) came up with this idea and it has been a hit. In fact, he usually gives a children’s message before the main message, and that message is cowboy themed. This year he talked about how every person is important (1 Cor. 12) no matter their age or ability, just like every person in a cattle job was vital – no matter their job or ethnicity.

That deacon did not have to do much research for his message. He loves watching Western films, reading cowboy books, and is an actual cattle farmer.

I, on the other hand, had to do some research. I had to look into the history of the 1800’s, cowboys, the Oregon Trail, the Gold Rush, and romanticism.

Then adding to the pressure of that day, it was also the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

My sermon text was Acts 28, and this was chosen before I knew the exact date of Cowboy Sunday. Now, why was that text chosen? Because I have been preaching through Acts. I am not really a topical guy. I preach through the text of Scripture one passage at a time (called a pericope by academics).

Now, how does Acts touch upon Sept 11 or Cowboys?

What had I got myself into?

Let’s address 9/11 first.

I am the kind of guy who does not like addressing nationalistic/ patriotic days from the pulpit (though I had no pulpit on Sunday…). It is not because I am against America or holidays. Instead, it is because I define myself as a Christian American and not an American Christian. My identity is first and foremost as a follower of Christ. My primary citizenship is of the Kingdom of God. Then, my citizenship to an earthly kingdom is to follow. That being said, I want Sundays, which are days set aside by the followers of Christ to remember our Lord and Savior who rose on a Sunday, to be about God, His gospel, and His  Word. If Jesus is our only hope, then He is the one I want to talk about.

But Scripture shows me I need to be sensitive to the calendar and to the reality of my country. I believe that followers of God are to pray for the welfare of the country in which they are living, and also for the leaders of that country (Jer 29:4-7; 1 Tim 2:1-7). I am to have a profound love of neighbor (Luke 10:25-37) and I am to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

On September 11, 2011 our nation wept.

Thousands died and hundreds of thousands were connected to someone who died- whether classmate, friend, or family.

Death came into this world as a result of sin (Rom 5), so as I see tragedies I cannot do anything but mourn. This is not how it is supposed to be.

But many who died were those trying to save someone’s life. This reminds me of just how incredibly God made us. We might be broken creatures, but each of us bears the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). And God is compassionate and loving. God is also self-sacrificial. And as each person ran into that building to save someone, it reminded me of how Jesus Christ laid down his own life for me.

So with the 15th anniversary of September 11, I mourn with those who mourn, but I also look at the picture of Christ seen in those courageous men and women who rushed into those burning towers in order to save the lives of others–even at the cost of their own.

(continued in Cowboys and Christianity Part 2)