Uncommon love is not an either-or deal. Last night, as I have done for the past 19 Sunday nights, I again preached and led worship at Operation Nightwatch, a ministry to homeless, street people and folks carrying significant limitations in downtown Portland. They are a cross-section of humanity we often do not see or choose not to see. But if the gospel is not good news for all of us, it's not good news for any of us. Through their eyes I have begun learning just how good and how important that news is.
Shared the word from a tough passage from Luke 14:25-34. What?!?!?! I have to hate my family in order to love and follow Jesus? That's what the words on the page say. Shows us the importance of considering not just the flower but the whole garden in order to get a more accurate picture. It's like a pyramid. Try standing it up on its point. It falls over instantly. But put it on its base and it's as stable as can be. With the point in the right place, everything else is too. Uncommon love is like that. Stable. In the right place.
A friend and former co-worker, John Towns, was always a prime example to me of having the pyramid right-side-up. His love of God, family and neighbor were inseparable and manifest in everything he did. Grew up in a poor household in Alabama where his father worked and his mother took in laundry and sewing to help make ends meet. In one childhood photo John is standing next to an African-American woman. "That's my Mammie who raised me," John said, his voice clearly filled with love and admiration decades later for this woman who was a part of his family in one of the most segregated places in the USA. If John's family was poor, we can only guess how poor Mammie's family was. But there was love. Uncommon love.
John went off to war. Twice. A son served in Vietnam, a grandson in Iraq. And John served faithfully by his beloved wife's side as the war of Alzheimer's disease took her mind and their relationship away. John's love never faded, only grew. Daily he was there in her care facility talking to her, nursing her, loving her. And when at last her breathless body was laid to rest in Willamette National Cemetery, John continued. He'd place his little wooden stool on the steep hillside next to her grave carrying on the conversation as he tended to each blade of grass or memorial bouquet as lovingly as he had tended to her. He'd read the Bible to her. Uncommon love is not an either-or deal. The uncommon love of Christ enabled him to love Christ back and to love his family in the same way, the right way: uncommonly. Amazing how stable the pyramid is when it's right-side-up.
Replaceable dollars. We have the best dentist in the world, I think. His staff are equally outstanding. On a recent visit, Dr. T and my wife were talking about the cost of health care. Yes, he feels it too in trying to provide benefits for his staff. My wife remarked how much could be done if we were spending the dollars currently going to Iraq (dollars we don't really have since we are doing this war on our children's and grandchildren's credit cards) in a different way. The young hygienist, J, commented three times during the conversation, "Yes, but the dollars are replaceable." Kind of a roundabout way of saying, "The lives being lost in Iraq aren't replaceable, and that's what we should focus on." True enough. True enough.
But are the dollars really replaceable? And do the human needs currently going unmet simply vanish into thin air, as though these needs were never real in the first place? What future golden age do we think our current war dollars are buying us? And what human needs in the future will go unmet because future dollars are making interest payments on money we borrowed today or last year? How and where and at what level of society we spend the dollars and meet human need should always be open for discussion and improvement to do it the best way possible. But there is absolutely no such thing as saving money by not meeting human need. That's the most wasteful spending we are capable of. And we do it regularly. Where is the right-side-upness of this pyramid? And what's uncommon love got to do with it? Anything? Think about it...
Next time: So are we trying to start a church, or what?
Blessings and uncommon love be with you!