Is it Going to Get Better?
April 21, 2013
Bonnie A. Perry
Here we stand God. And we want some answers.
In your Holy Name we pray.
Midnight, came and went and a week passed that needed to be put down, stomped out, separated and strewn all over never to occur again so we could be released from our misery.
Then as I watched the day dawn, I thought, as the blood red ball transitioned from to orange, to gold, yellow and then to pupil contracting white, I thought, is it going to be any better? My eyes may squint, but will mine eyes see the glory of the coming of the Lord? That is—will this day—this coming week be any better?
Last week, just in case you were traveling in the Sahara or Mars, last week was one to remember or forget. Monday was tax day. My day began with a graveside ceremony in Joliet. Followed by a flat tire on the way back in, later, while sitting in a coffee shop—I realized that I was looking at headline news—brought to me by ESPN. Having paid close attention to NPR's Morning edition as I journeyed to Joliet I remembered, as I watched the video of the bomb blast over and over again, I remembered that the VIP section for the Marathon was right at the finish line. And it was in the VIP section where the many families from Newtown were to be seated. Every mile of the marathon had been dedicated to one of the slain teachers and children from Newtown. (I wish that the remaining footage had been offered in memory of the young man who'd done the shooting and his mom.)
The news continued and I did what I imagine most of us did, I realized how very sheltered and immune I long to be from the world’s chaotic debris. But once again, I saw people who look like me terrified on TV and I felt a chill in the marrow of my being.
Tuesday we heard more, tried to move on. Wednesday the Senate, our leaders politely disregarding what 90% of the electorate asked them to do, voted no, voted no, voted no to expanded background checks and assault weapons ban. And then came the rains, the flash floods, sink holes, and the fertilizer plant exploded. A horrific event only to be eclipsed by the most televised man-hunt since OJ Simpson. Bombs, guns, blood and brothers; that’s merely the public part of this week, I’ve omitted the personal parish events: trips to the hospitals, students murdered and loved ones in ICUs.
Ironically, parishioner and Washington Bureau chief of the New York Daily News, Jim Warren, e-mailed me last Sunday asking if we might have a conversation about how we care about all that is happening in the world without going nuts—he e-mailed me before all of this happened.
The sun is well up over the horizon, now, and I ask you—what the hell are we going to do? How are we going to be? Here’s the real kicker—how are we as people of faith going to be?
Individually cynical? Collectively numb? Naively optimistic? Corporately despairing?
How about—uniformly angry? How about gravely hopeful? How about Christian people willing to test our stated beliefs that destruction, death and despair does not have the final say? How about being Christians three weeks after Easter Sunday? How about claiming and acting as if resurrection is not just a theological excuse to hire a trumpeter? How about being resurrection people?
If we believe Jesus got up from the grave, if we believe something real happened on that day 2000 years ago then who are we to let the death-dealing polices of the NRA dictate an entire swath of US domestic policy?
Is that how Resurrection people act?
What of Boston, what of Waco Texas, what of every family who lost a loved one murdered on the streets of this city, how do Resurrection people act? How do we behave?
Sometimes, good faithful progressive people, think its all about the doing and acting. And heaven help us if we do not act—if we do not respond in concrete, tangible ways. But dear friends we cannot overlook or undervalue—what it means to lament and pray. Filled with the sorrow of our world—we need now to begin all of work as the ancients did—when they too faced oppression, death and massive communal injustices. We cannot fix this on our own. We need to communally rage as the ancients did, “FROM WHERE DOES OUR HELP COME? FROM THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.”
When we gather in corporate communal prayer, we might dare to risk voicing our deepest despair. Our desperate sense that we might be in this alone—to say as the ancients did, “Where in God’s name are you? Why have you forsaken me and so far from our anguished groans? Please O Lord, do not be far from me, trouble is all around? My bones have fallen apart, my heart is wax and melts, my strength is dried up—my god my god o why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22—and comes a portion of the answer in Psalm 23----
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death—though I am in that deep dark valley, though I know all about death and darkness rising, though I am now in that valley—yet I will walk through it. I will not remain forever lodged in it, particularly if I am in that valley with you. With all of you. Each of us reminding the other when we can bear it no longer and have forsaken our beliefs—then each of us reminds the other that our God has with the people acted before. And our God with the people will act again.
Plagues have come, plagues have been conquered. Wars have come—wars have ended--to remember this in our corporate lament.
An act of corporate lament may not look the way you may think it might. I am thinking of Carlos Arredondo—the man with the straw cowboy hat standing, watching, bearing witness at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Carlos was there cheering on the marines who ran the marathon in full combat gear in memory of their fallen comrades. Carlos was there bearing witness to those marines because his son was a marine killed in Afghanistan in 2004. His other son committed suicide as a result of his brother’s death in Afghanistan. Carlos was there at the finish line when the bomb exploded. He hoped the fence and pulled off his shirt and a created a tourniquet for Jeff Bauman who had lost his legs. Carlos saved Jeff Bauman’s life. He could have been home. Overwhelmed and alone with his grief—instead he was there at that finish line—bearing witness, publicly lamenting his loss. Carlos was there and now Jeff Bauman is alive.
Through corporate lament we remember God has acted, we remind one another God has acted and that God will act again. God will act with us and God will act through us and with God we too shall pass through –we too will move through the valley of the shadow of death. And we will no longer fear evil, for we are a resurrection people.
We are a resurrection people.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Copyright Bonnie A. Perry April 2013