I bought a book the other day… big surprise… but it was a good deal… Being The Body, by Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn. It is a rewrite of the original: The Body, also by Colson. I loved the original and am just starting this one. It’s been around a little while, since 2003, so the introduction is about the way in which a church in New York City responded to the falling of the Twin Towers. I’m including a section of the intro. Although the culture has changed…. in 6 years, amazing… we are still tempted to fear, now due to financial reasons, and the fabric of our civil union is under great strain… face it, we are arguing over pretty rediculous things, like the president talking to school children? Really? I would suggest, that now is the time for The Church to choose something as radical as love with which to respond to the cry of fear-filled people. Like those in the clip of Rent, following this post.
“Early in the morning on the third day after the terrorist attacks, while it was still dark, a construction worker named Frand Silvecchia was working in the tomb that had been the World Trade Center. He had just helped to remove three bodies from the smoking wreckage. He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve and bent over, hands on his knees. When he stood up… there, in the midst of the chaos, he saw the cross. A perfectly straight, twenty-foot cross made of cast-iron beams. Silvecchia knelt in the ash and wept.
The cross, it turns out, was not simply two cross beams remaining from one of the buildings. It was formed out of girders from Tower One that crashed into Building Six, shattering in the collapse to create a symmetrical sign in the midst of utter ruin.
In the weeks and months that followed, the cross at Ground Zero became a potent symbol of hope. Hard-hats prayed under it. Victims’ families laid flowers at its base. In a ceremony soon after its discovery, it was blessed with holy water; priests, nuns, pastors, and construction workers sang, “God Bless America” and fire department bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.” In a land where crosses usually dangle from fine gold chains or atop the lovely churches of landscaped suburbs, this cross was different. It was a sign of contradiction, of defiance, of paradox, of hope in the horrific remains of devastation and death.
And in that it had much in common with the bloodstained cross of Golgotha.
“When I first saw it, it took my heart,” Frank Silvecchia said of his discovery of the cross at Ground Zero. “It helped heal the burden of my despair and gave me closure on the whole catastrophe.”
For many, Ground Zero is still a raw and open wound. But in every such wound, in every catastrophe that has followed September 11, small and large, national and individual, the question is, Where is the good?
Where was God on September 11?
Certainly the “wild truth,” as G. K. Chesterton called Christian theology, can address such questions persuasively, for those who have ears to hear.
But as it was for John (a manager of The Window on the World restaurent in Tower One, spoken about earlier in the intro, whose life was spared and wandered into a homeless shelter after the Towers fell, where an African-American man missing a tooth and obviously very poor, invited him to shower the soot off in the shelter’s shower and then gave John the only other shirt the man owned because John’s was ruined.), the presence of Christ in a broken world is best demonstrated by deeds rather than words. And the challenge for today’s church is not so much convincing skeptics of the truth of the gospel as it is really believing it ourselves. Believing it in the radical way that compels us to be the Body of Christ, undeniably alive in the midst of death and destruction.
That is the improbable plan Christ put in place two thousand years ago, leaving the evidence of His continuing presence in the world in the hands of a motley crew of flawed human beings.
“What about you?” Jesus asked them. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Are not these days of the early twenty-first century a season of urgency, shattered complacency, hellish loss… and unprecedented opportunity? If freedom is at war with fear, if catastrophe can turn from death to resurrection, if hope can triumph over despair… if there was ever a time for the church to be the church, it is now.”