by Rev. David Rommereim
After the Tragedy at the Boston Marathon, A Bold Prayer for healing is needed.
Erin Niemela is a graduate student in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University. She is also a syndicated journalist. In her journalist role, she shared a wonderful thought on recovery after the horrible bombing at the Boston Marathon. She said, "We are better than this."
After such an event, our intinct is to become confused, then angry. Why does this happen!? Why such violence!? Then we surge forward to find the perpetrator(s) so that we may extend the full weight of justice. An angry justice refers to "getting even."
As a Biblically literate Christian, I am aware that the narrative of Jesus' ministry fully testifies to the good that is in us. I am fully aware that Jesus is cognizant of mean people. After all, he shares the parable of the "Rich man and Lazarus" (Luke 16.16-31). He speaks about the abusive political systems he is encountering in both Galilee and Jerusalem through stories like Mark 3.6. There he reminds us that there is the conspiracy of the religious leaders who went out to conspire with the Herodians against him. Jesus is also aware that you and I deceive one another and ourselves, especially when we are most challenged to maintain our own limited sense of power. Just meditate on Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" Matthew 5 and 6. You will be overwhelmed with insight that we get ourselves clogged in the things that we think are important (what I am to eat, wear, or do). However, I am happy to report that you will seldom find the biblical Jesus trying to "get even." Justice in the Jesus' narrative refers to the value of a reconciled peace. The Jewish Jesus calls that form of peace, shalom.
Humanity is more creative than this eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth form of justice. Humanity has a creative energy that moves beyond the knee-jerk reactions. People of faith know God created. People of faith know that when She was pregnant with creating, God was not inventing (sticks, stones, earth, sea creatures, etc). She was making new out of old dark chaos; light in the middle of the dark, peace in the center of violence.
In the narrative of the first Creation Story (Genesis 1-2.4) we are told that, "after the seventh day God blessed the day and named it all holy/sacred (gadosh)." Have you ever felt or known yourself to be gadosh? Try it. It does not get any better than that.
After a massive tragedy like the Boston Marathon, or the same April 15, 2013 bombings in Bagdad and Afghanistan, we can angrily slip into the easy road to "go get 'em, lock 'em up, and throw away the key." Christians, however, are not asked to participate in this retributive form of justice. We are better than this. We are asked to change the cycle of violence. Jesus' blessings found in Matthew 5:1-12 share this imaginative form of living toward the best of us.
As a member of the faith community, the Church, and as a member of a community dedicated to following behind the prophetic wisdom of Jesus, we are challenged to make better, make good, make holy. To seek this sacred value does not mean we are naïve nor think everything will be ok in the sweet bye-and-bye. Rather, it means that we are challenged to act our way into a new way of being. We accomplish this through ending any participation with violence, the subtle bullying through simple nonchalant gossip, or the large-scale harm that could be done by retaliating and injuring other innocent people.
This week I invite you to watch yourself. If, after the news of this tragic horrible event in Boston your knee to jerks toward retribution and opinions that will satisfy the "full scale of justice," then remember, "we are better than this."
Our faith response is not simple. It is informed by the fact that Jesus did not ask God to hurt those who crucified him. He told the reactive disciple who cut off the servant's ear to put the knife away while he touched the ear and healed it (Luke 22.49-51).
The power of our story is that Jesus asked God to loosen the burden that the violence caused rather than be bound by that burden causing more violence. His prophetic job, the one shared in the Gospel narratives, was to change the cycle of violence by a new way of responding to tragedies like the ones we've witnessed Monday and over the last few months. Jesus knew the well-being of his followers was at stake if they reacted without any soulful power. Jesus taught his followers that, "we are better than this." Jesus is even quoted to pray, "Abba, Forgive them." And this form of forgiveness ~ from the middle of the horror of the cross ~ means that we no longer will allow this violence to control our living and make us as bad as bad is. It means we change the cycle of violence by practicing our way toward a world without violence. This is what we are made for.
I remain, Pastor
David H. Rommereim