I had intended to finish up my Lenten reflections on fasting this week, but I’ve decided to put that off in order to give the ol’ blog here a new look for the Easter season and to reflect on the most recent tragedy to befall our nation. The previous theme was Lent-y in appearance as well as in its content. White is the liturgical color of Easter, and I think it is especially appropriate to stand in Easter as we begin to grapple with yesterday’s events in Boston.
A barrage of quotations has saturated social media in the wake of the bombings. I’ve seen posts offering soundbites from Mr. Rogers, Frederick Buechner, Martin Luther King, and Isaac Watts (among others), as well as numerous verses from the Psalms and the Book of Proverbs. Many of them admittedly are trite – but we all reach out for something close at hand when our feet are knocked out from under us. I am no different. Quotes from the Sermon on the Mount have been scrolling through my mind this morning like a cable news ticker.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled…. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy…. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God….
You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world…. You are the light of the world…. You are the light of the world….
A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it….
That “You are the light of the world” bit always repeats a few times when it comes around, and John 1.5 inevitably bleeds into Matthew 5.14. Then the cycle begins again.
I think Jesus’ words about light and John’s words about Jesus are both needed whenever night falls – especially when it falls in the middle of the day. I firmly believe that there is a divine spark that glows inside all of us as men and women created in the image of God. Jesus affirms that. He also cautions us against hiding it – intentionally or unintentionally – and bids us to let it shine for all to see. Yet, we can let our light can shine in more ways than one. It can shine like dawn breaking on the horizon or like lighting cutting across the sky. It can shine like the fire that warms our hearth or like the fire that consumes our house. We can choose.
Both forms of light were on display in Boston yesterday afternoon: the blasts that cut through stone, steel, and flesh and the warmth of those who responded and continue to respond – on the scene, across the nation, and around the world. Both forms of light reflect conscious choices people have made. Thankfully, warmth appears to be winning out over searing heat – so far. ‘The helpers,” as Fred Rogers calls them in one of those social media quotes, have come out in force. Whatever the bomber(s) destroyed yesterday, it was not our spirit. Our light is shining! But that doesn’t mean this night is over – or that another one isn’t around the corner.
There is no declaration in Matthew or John (or Mark or Luke or anywhere else in the New Testament, for that matter) that darkness is no more. The promise we have is that a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not snuff it out. Good Friday will always be followed by Easter Sunday.
The bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line went off just before 3pm. Darkness fell across the land around 3pm when Jesus hung dying on the cross, too. He was bruised, bloodied, and broken. He breathed His last. Night fell. Easter did not vanquish that darkness: pain, suffering, fear, cowardice, betrayal, abuse of power, and a whole host of other injustices still haunt our world. No, Easter did not vanquish that darkness. Easter defies it. Easter proves that night does not, cannot, and will not prevail. Easter is God’s declaration that dawn breaks, it is not broken. A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it….
May we all stand firmly in that Easter hope in the days ahead. May we choose to let our light shine as a flame that warms but does not burn. And may we resist the temptation to start fighting fire with fire. The night is long enough as it is.