When Jesus Christ, God-Among-Us, came to live among those he created to be in a love relationship with himself and his heavenly Father, we murdered him (John 1:10).
I was thinking about this fact right after the call came in telling us that two bombs had exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, maiming family members of runners, while another went off at the J.F.K. Library.
We live on Boston’s Northshore. Bill has been teaching for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Boston Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) in various Boston churches and its sites first at Jamaica Plain and now in Roxbury since 1992 and exclusively since 2000. Aίda began even earlier, serving on the CUME committee since 1982 and teaching courses in various years since that date. Both of us have preached in many of the city’s churches and trained many of its pastors. This has been our home for 31 years.
To us, the Marathon is not really a political event. Gordon-Conwell students, faculty, and staff run in it along with friends like our local mail carrier and parishioners in our church as well as in many area churches. It is held on Patriot’s Day, which is a Massachusetts holiday celebrating the start of the American Revolution, but much more political is the reenactment of the battles at nearby Concord and Lexington. The Marathon is a family event. It attracts runners from all over the world – 23,000 this year, but the spirit is festive. One of our parishioners, Mike, had told us he was taking his fairly newly arrived 19 year old stepson from China to enjoy the race and get a feeling for the real America.
The first call came into us from Joe, our minister of outreach, who was at a nearby veteran’s hospital taking tests when the facility went on the alert.
We called Mike’s cell phone to see if he and his son were all right. Mike answered and told us they had been there with a friend of his son who was helping him enroll at Gordon College and Mike had just called the young man, who was dazed and in shock from having seen the explosions and the carnage.
We wondered what kind of impression do these young Chinese students have of America, where periodically a mass killing spree takes innocent lives. So far at this hour, according to the Associated Press, 2 have died and 105 are injured. As one State Trooper who had run in the Marathon reflected, “At least 20 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing.”[i] Seventeen hundred runners had already crossed the finish line. The bombs went off wounding and killing the families and runners not of professional athletes, but just of regular folks like ourselves who just wanted to be in the event.
What kind of person would do such a thing? “They don’t know who did this yet,” said Mike. “They don’t know if it’s a terrorist or just some nut case.”
Boston is no stranger to terrorism as 911 began here at Logan Airport. And New England is no stranger to mass murder from the so-called Boston Strangler to the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
If we wonder what the Apostle Paul meant when he told the Ephesians to clothe themselves with truth and righteousness and peace and salvation and the word of God and prayer – the armor of God – to stand fast on the evil day (Eph. 6: 190-18), he wasn’t just talking about some far flung apocalyptic future. We have all been living in the evil day since the world fell from grace.
The question before us is "what are we going to do about it?" We can’t retaliate in kind, because violence breeds violence, but love breeds love.
At this hour we don’t yet know who did this and whether there is a why to it, but we do know that the church has a mandate to go into all the world and preach good news, healing warped hearts that could degenerate to such actions. The Patriot’s Day bombing is a clear example that we need to heighten our efforts to bring in God’s reign of love and reconciliation.
[i] Associated Press, “Boston Marathon bombing kills 2, injures over 100,” http://my.earthlink.net/channel/new/print?guid=20130415/f3520dd46-d..., posted 7:03 pm EDT, April 15, accessed 7:43 pm, April 15, 2013.