It made a huge difference that suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended by the end of the week. Clearly the fear went from hidden and lurking to a white-hot anger focused on making an example out of anyone who would attack innocent people. Still terrorism did its job.
I still hear of people saying they are rethinking their summer plans. Some are choosing not to fly. Some second-guessing their desire to travel or go downtown for the July 4th Firework display. I’ve had a lot more conversations about 9-11. Obviously much of this has to do with my locality in the Boston suburbs but I imagine similar conversations are happening everywhere.
The very same week as the Marathon bombings was the week of the Texas fertilizer explosion that killed 14 people, injured many more and destroyed homes, businesses and a school. Understandably they are having a different set of conversations. I imagine people say things like, “You just never know when something is going to blow up” and “Are all companies corrupt?.” Unconfirmed rumors suspect the plant was storing illegal and unsafe quantities of explosive material. It’s too early to tell as investigations are still being conducted but some of have already made up there minds.
Last week, we were captivated by the three young woman held captive for a decade in a sick man’s home in Cleveland. It makes me angry every time I think about it. And then I think about human trafficking here in this country and the 30 million that are trafficked worldwide. I imagine people saying things like, “I never would have guessed that was happening here” and “I wonder what other unspeakable horrors are lurking in my neighborhood.”
It’s easy to get cynical. It’s easy to assume that everyone is evil, that all companies are corrupt and that every neighborhood has secrets of unspeakable horrors. It’s easy to hate more than the evil in this world. It’s easy to circle the wagons and care for only ourselves and our loved ones. It’s easy to get jaded and seek escape or denial. Maybe if I don’t look at the evil, it will pass over me, ignore me, it won’t call on me.
At the same time being naive won’t help. There are people in the world who are evil. Some companies are corrupt. Some neighborhoods do have unspeakable horrors. This is true in some of our homes and in some of our hearts.
The sad reality is there are countless tragic stories that we can chronicle and our country and our world has no shortage of them. What we are talking about may depend on where we live, but the potential for pain, suffering, death and evil exist everywhere too.
We ask ourselves the big questions, why is the world like this? Why is this the nature of life? Sadly, it appears there will be more bombings, more random buildings that will suddenly blow up, and more innocent beloved children abducted by sick and despicable people. Sometimes it happens to us and sometimes it happens to someone else. This is part of our fear.
The narrative of the gospel tells us the world is broken but God has given a solution in Jesus. What draws me to Jesus is not the piety, nor the potential escapism, but the promise of life trumping death. But to get there you have to be willing to experience the paradox of giving your life in order to find it. Putting our faith in God’s goodness being greater than evil’s worst is the strength of the Christian faith. When talking about the resurrection of Jesus, Paul writes:
“In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!”
(I Cor. 15:55-57, Message Translation)
I’m not going to advocate that you keep your vacation plans as they are, or insist you go into the city, and live in denial of the potential of terrible things. We are still flying this summer and we’re still going into Boston for our planned day trips – may God keep us safe – may God keep you safe. But I would love to encourage you to put your trust in the Lord in this life and in the one to come. I find goodness and freedom in living in this way.
Last, I keep thinking of the spoken word piece that my fellow GC pastor and new friend Dave Ripper put together days after the bombing. It’s called, “In Boston As It Is In Heaven: A Prayer.” (Adapted from Psalm 119, video shot and edited by Rachel Martin.)