I was in Phoenix all of last week. I was attending a retreat for young ministers. The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all. It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”
As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there. As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow. It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events. Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.
So what can we learn from these events?
First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news. In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports. News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.
Second, the human condition is alive and well. Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another. Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.
However, not all hope is lost. (see below)
Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.
Reports of Marathon Runners that crossed finish line and continued to run to Mass General Hospital to give blood to victims #PrayforBoston—
NBC Sports Network (@NBCSN) April 15, 2013
As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)
If the Gospel does not bring comfort today, it does not matter. #boston—
David L Hansen (@rev_david) April 16, 2013
For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.
Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.
God will never ask you to become the wrong kind of person in order to do the right kind of things.—
John Ortberg (@johnortberg) April 19, 2013
May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.
Come Spirit Come.