9-11 Reflections-- May We Understand the Love of God and Engage in His Mission
On this day each year, I reflect on 9-11. I guess everyone does.
Tragedies in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and in New York are replayed on television, reminding us of the loss. For me, I think of New York in particular since my dad helped build the World Trade Center and I grew up on Long Island. I tell a little bit about that story here... and it reminds me of our need for gospel faithfulness and fruitfulness in New York and everywhere.
We need lives shaped by the love of God, compelling us to the mission of God, as explained in this excerpt from Compelled: Living the Mission of God (with Philip Nation).
Love hurts, love scars,
Love wounds, and marks,
Any heart, not tough,
Or strong, enough
To take a lot of pain,
Take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts
Ooh ooh love hurts
-Nazareth, Hair of the Dog
So begins one of the more significant songs from my life in the md-70s. The song was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who, oddly enough are buried in Nashville (where I now live) and wrote the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee Volunteers called "Rocky Top." (Probably more than you wanted to know, but I live in Nashville for all of two months, and I am learning new things.) The song, interestingly, was made famous by a band called Nazareth (named after the city in Pennsylvania mentioned in a different song, not the city where Jesus' lived).
I lived in Levittown, just outside of New York City, and like everyone else in New York of the 70s, there were certain ballads that just needed to be sung--loudly. And, "Ooh ooh love hurts" fit the bill.
In Levittown, 1975 was a tough year. Levittown had seen better days. I remember collecting hypodermic needles that were left on the sidewalk (much to the later horror of my parents). A huge fire broke out at the World Trade Center, confirming my grandfather's rule that my mother should never work there.
In New York City, what many called the "liberal experiment" of American neo-socialism was coming to an end-- rapidly. The social spending had simply become too much. NYC was headed toward, and loudly threatening, bankruptcy. President Ford did not want to help, leading to one of the most famous headlines of all time: "Ford to City: Drop Dead."
Public services fell apart; my grandfather figured it was time to get out and moved to Florida--a million people moved out of NYC that year. We'd follow two years later in hope of finding work and a better life. My father could not find work--there was not much use for union Ironworker's Local # 46 NYC when no one was building. He had sobered up in 1971, turned his life around, but still could not find work.
It was a tough year. And, around that year I quit signing cards, "Love, Ed."
Love does hurt... but what is worse is a life without it. When we live a life without love, and claim to be a Christian, it is bad for us and it is bad for the cause of Christ.
So, we have sought to give you a portrait of love. It is one of God's missional heart. It is the activity of God's missional body - the church. And it is the forming of God's missionaries - you. But I have not given you a definition of love. Why? Because love is impossible to fully define. Though I would like to offer a pithy, insightful definition for love, it would simply be foolish. Love is part of God's character. It is also a human emotion. Love is mystical but also practical. Love is a choice and oftentimes a compulsion. Love's true nature is beyond my comprehension.