By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
April 21, 2013
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
The events that unfolded this week in Boston
Were as strange as they were frightening.
Explosions, three deaths, many injured, the city on lockdown ...
And then, just as suddenly, one suspect killed, another in custody.
What is perhaps strangest about it to me, though,
Is how even though it’s all pretty bizarre and macabre,
At the same time there is something very sadly familiar about it.
Something that hears the news and says, Lord have mercy, here we go again.
Every time we go through senseless things like this as a culture and a society –
Every time we’re forced to use terms like mass murder or terrorism –
Every time the news breaks in and the feeding frenzy starts
And Facebook goes on overload and people try to manage their anxiety –
There’s a common sequence of thoughts and emotions –
That first began, for me, in 1995, with Oklahoma City,
And goes right through to today.
All the names so synonymous with these things:
Murrah Building. Columbine. 9/11. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Newtown.
The noise. The smoke. The chaos. “We interrupt this regularly scheduled program.”
A sudden shifting and reorientation – attention being drawn to this new thing.
Watching things play out. Many people watching, passive, helpless.
The sudden appearance of shrines, candles, flowers, poetry, teddy bears.
The local news trying to get a local angle on an international story.
People not knowing what to do, precisely. Maybe going out and giving blood.
People telling reporters,
He was a nice guy who set out his trash like everyone else.
The sudden appearance of a few extra people at the door of the church,
Looking for answers about why men’s hearts can be so dark,
And Where Is God In All This.
The mass services of burial by churches.
The public service to honor the victims, when politicians show up.
The honoring of heroes and stories arising from tragedy –
Realizing we are a braver and more charitable people than we thought.
The endless coverage in local media. Debates about culture and guns.
Then, amidst trials and arguments over what makes for justice,
The convenient forgetting of the facts and the Oh yeah – that happened.
We do whatever we can to cope.
Seems we have only so much attention, and increasingly less of that to go around.
This is the distracted, violent, unsafe world we live in now, and I’m sorry for it.
Information is instantaneous and worldwide.
With one thoughtless deed someone can become instantly known by everyone.
Murder can be a platform for infamy –
As a way to make one’s particular agenda known –
Whatever axe one may wish to grind, whatever has gotten someone angry,
Or a mental disease working itself out.
It’s just the world we live in.
It isn’t right, but it is the way things are, and I’m sorry for it.
There’s no magic pill or incantation that’s going to change it.
Innocent blood will continue to be spilled.
But. For you, and for me, it’s different.
Just because this is the world we live in
Doesn’t mean we have to live with it.
Where others might simply shake their heads and give in,
Christians don’t get a free pass; in fact, we’re never off the hook,
From the moment of our baptisms onward.
Contrary to common ideas, I’m sure that the vision Jesus had for the world
Was not that we would live entirely free from conflict,
But rather that we would give glory to God in spite of whatever conflict
Was before us and within us.
That we would give glory to God through our words, deeds, and prayers;
And that it would show up in how we treat our neighbors.
That we would find a way to give beyond our means.
That we would pray not only for victims, but also for perpetrators and terrorists –
That everyone might come to know the love of God –
As hard a prayer as that might be to say.
That we would guard our hearts and keep them supple,
So that tragedy would not harden us,
But only serve to make us more compassionate … and wiser.
That we would know the things that make for peace, and do them.
We’re a peculiar people living in a peculiar place and time,
And an awful lot depends on how we act, how we respond to tragedy.
There’s no question we have to respond.
The only question is whether we will follow the fearful crowd
Or instead be willing live and think in a different way –
The way of Christ, the good shepherd, which is the way of justice and peace.