After the bombing on Monday I tried to sooth myself with my good friend chocolate - but when I returned home from work on Tuesday, Nessie the bad dog had eaten the entire package of whoopee pies.
Good dog, Nessie, good dog.
Thank you for caring about my nutritional needs.
I know, truly I know, that there is no outside thing- food or drink- that will make the sadness of the week’s events feel any less miserable. We struggle to make sense of the senseless- and to purge our brains of the gruesome images we witnessed. But you can’t do that- there is no brain bleach or “emotion away cleaner” that will make this any better.
On Friday, the violence struck close to home when my husband Rob (who was not able to go into work in Cambridge because the City was on lock down ) was saddened because, he recognized the baby face of the MIT police officer as someone he passed on his commute. We clung to the television- watching the same scenes over and over again. Feeling the anxiety and despair. Glued to my Twitter and Facebook feeds- I tried to offer words of hope, humor and comfort over the internet. And finally late Friday night- breathing again. Turning off the TV and breathing… Anyone else feel like you forgot to take a deep breath the entire time between Monday’s bombing and Fridays arrest?
It was a week… it was a week… and it was and is a time to wrap ourselves in God’s love and God’s promise of comfort. And , aren’t we blessed that the lectionary this week is the 23rd psalm. The Lord is my Shepard. Words that are comforting and familiar.
First off, we have the illustrations of peace and rest. He makes me lie down in green pastures – he leads me beside still waters. I don’t know about you – but sleep has not come easily to me this week. On Monday night – I stayed up late watching the news coverage of the bombing and then – surprise- when I tried to sleep I couldn’t turn off or down- the thoughts running through my mind. Tuesday was much of the same and then…you know how it goes- once you fall behind on sleep… And then Friday night….eeesh. But anyway- my point is that this metaphor of resting in a green and quiet spot was exceptionally appealing this week.
And then, of course, there is the part in the psalm about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Put a big ol’ check mark next to that one this week. It seems as if the entire week has been cast in the shadow of death and flavored with evil. But then comes the next line. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. There’s an image for the week, Jesus the Good Shepherd using the rod and staff to keep the sheep on the right path and to thump the heads of any lions, or wolves or terrorist, whatever or whoever that threatens the flock.
Let’s not ignore, however, our doubts, our questions, our angst… Where was that rod , where was that staff - when the bombs went off? Where was the Shepherd who is supposed to keep the sheep from harm?
I don’t have an answer to why there is evil in the world…and believe me- if I did, it would make it so much easier to be preaching this morning. But we are not a church of easy answers. We are a church that struggles together to make sense of the pain and the hurt in the world and we are a church that clings to the belief that God was there- when the bombs went off- when the shots were fired. God was there weeping at the bedside of the injured. God was there encouraging the spirits of the first responders and the investigators and the leaders of the community and the land. God continues to be there and here.
The psalm ends with the beloved phrase, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is the promise of God. That we are pursued by God’s goodness and mercy and pursued relentlessly. Followed by Goodness and Mercy always and then, when the days of our lives end - we will dwell with God forever.
That is a promise for the future and we are still grieving and healing and trying to get through the day, and please God, a better week.
I’ve heard violence defined as one person forcing their will on someone else. We’ve seen that this week; the will for discomfort, for destruction and death inflicted on people who simply willed a nice day out with family and friends to watch a marathon. Here is my challenge to us- because our will- our will for a feeling of safety and peace was violated this week and still the gospel calls us to respond with our own “will” a different kind of “will.”
I will not answer violence with violence.
I will not scapegoat an entire religion for the actions of a few.
I will pray for the taken, the injured and the ones who cause the chaos.
I will love.
I will laugh.
I will hope.
I will keep faith.
I will be strong.
I will rejoice in this day and the next day and the days to come.
Because Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.