Thoughts On Boston

We join together in the deep sadness that events like Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon bring to mind. Events like that of April 15th are not anomalies, though we wish it so. From a suicide bombing in Mogadishu last week to the continued echoes of violent death in Iraq and Afghanistan, these events stain the human experience, reminding us again and again of the caustic power of darkness.

40 years ago, in 1963, the nation was rocked by another bombing, this one at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. 4 beautiful young girls died. Darkness had its day.

I was struck recently reading an interview with a survivor of that bombing. A young girl then, a friend of the four, she by mere happenstance was not with her friends the moment the explosion tore through the room. Years later, rummaging through the nicknacks of a now decades long worth of living, she same across the church flier for the sermon that was to have been preached the day of the bombing.

The topic of the service … forgiveness. The scripture for the service … Christ’s words from the Cross …. “Father forgive them for don’t know what they are doing.”

That is the love, the incredibly difficult love we are to bring to these shattered moments. One can see that very love in action from the outpouring of support in Boston. Stories of people opening their homes to now stranded runners. Courage of first responders running towards the carnage. Runners running directly from the race to donate blood. The helpers. As Fred Rogers shared, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And we do.

And that love is both what gives us hope in these moments as well as a call for what we are to become. It is not a simple call but a jarring one because it calls us so clearly out of our settled selves. It is why churches exist. Our job … to join in the suffering and to continue to seek a new world.

“Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.” Rev. Martin Luther King delivering the eulogy for three of the girls killed at the 15th Street Baptist Church.

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