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The Road Goes On

Thursday, July 07, 2005 at 3:49 PM

Not again . . . .

Lord, have mercy.

How horribly ironic that this morning's attacks came right after I wrote about our recent addiction to a TV show driven by various terrorist threats.

I'm in shock, and very sad. It's easy to say or think: "I need to be praying for everyone directly impacted by these attacks." It's much harder to quiet myself enough to do so.

I spent six months in London in the Spring of 1998 -- one of the best times of my life. John Britt, a retired, semi-deaf widower (and one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever met) graciously opened up his little home to me, even offering to take me siteseeing on weekends in his car, so we could venture further out into the countryside than most tourists. He was an anglophile's dream: a quirky, slightly eccentric older gentleman always wanting to be the charming and witty companion. My British friends closer to my age all got a kick out of him, too. He was a relic, in many ways. He would say things like, "Cheerio!" in all sincerity, and would at times feel the urge to give the bartender at the pub a pound or two, saying "and one for yourself . . " I was fascinated to hear his stories of the Blitz -- the last time London withstood an attack of this magnitude.

He's the first image that comes to mind when I think of London. Next is Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in Covent Garden and all my friends there (many of whom no longer live in London, but I'm still going to try and find out if they're alright).

All this is to say, even though it's an ocean away, my personal and emotional ties to London are much greater than to New York, and today's events hit home in a different way than the TV images of the catasrophe there four years ago.

I have yet to watch any footage; I've just listened to the radio. But I did see this:

King's Cross station is not only where aspiring witches and wizards catch the train to Hogwarts (at platform 9 3/4, I believe), I walked through the area in the center of this map nearly each day going to and from work. It was about a 3-4 mile trek, but I loved it. There were so many alternate routes and interesting things to see on each of them.

This is not a time to be preachy (in the pejorative sense), but ever since 9-11 these words have held my attention. It would be a mistake to leap directly from them to a Christian theory of statecraft and a detailed counter-terrorist policy, but by no means is that because Jesus' concern was with individuals and their internal dispositions.

Luke 6
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

You can call it a self-loathing liberal guilt complex if you like, but I hear Jesus' woes addressed to me. And I hear them not merely as curses against the haves in the name of the have-nots. I hear them as a realistic assessment of the way the world works.

So the question is, will I be among those who are willing to listen? What will that mean? What kind of witness will give others the chance to hear this call as an invitation to life, to the father's reward, instead of utter foolishness?

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