Death and all his friends

The last mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Newtown shootings. The 26th mile for the 26 who died.

Reports suggest family members lined the final mile. Tragedy upon tragedy. Tears weighed down with grief. Reports also suggest no one from Newtown was among those killed or injured in the bomb blast.

And I want to say that amid the trauma and the tragedy that is the faintest glimmer of good news.

And I suppose it is. But pain is not dealt out in equal measure. Suffering is not even handed. Suffering is the plaything of a crooked dealer wielding death and destruction, rending families apart. Taking from a father who was running the marathon an eight year old son who was cheering him along.

Fairness does not have a say when death is at hand. Death is indiscriminate in who it takes, who it hurts and who it leaves behind.

God and Politics got there before me and wrote this morning: Yesterday’s bombings in Iraq have killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 200, yet we hardly react to it at all.”

That is not the worst of it, bombs ahead of the upcoming elections killed scores more over the weekend. When it is almost a daily occasion news slips out of the news. It stops being of interest, it is simply one more tragedy piled upon a nation torn to shreds, and we look the other way.

Whether it is the Boston bombings, or in Iraq, or the acts of Kermit Gonsell carrying out late term abortions in torrid conditions, death seems closer than usual.

Tomorrow the streets of London will be lined with fans, adherents and hecklers as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral takes place. She was never anything but a historical figure to me, out of Downing Street before I could tie my shoelaces. But in death emotions are stirred and we are reminded that what we do in life matters.

I was far more affected by the death of Brennan Manning. Philip Yancey wrote in the forward to his final book: As you read this memoir you may be tempted, as I am, to think “Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn’t given into drink.” I urge you to reframe the thought to, “Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn’t discovered grace.”’

In death we look back because we cannot see any further forward.

And in the end we lie awake and dream of making our escape.

Or at least so say Coldplay.

But I think that they are wrong.

Escape is not the goal.

We are not in heaven’s waiting room.

We live amid the rubble and the destruction and the tears and the grief and in it all we search for the glimmer of hope that points to something which says one day all of that will go away. One day cheeks will not be stained by the soft hint of swiftly mopped up tears.

One day the church militant, those of us living each day fighting for strength, battling evil, will have struggled for its last time.

But that day isn’t when we step onto an intergalactic elevator to move us through the stars.

God came to us. He invited us into his arms as he hung on the cross. The suffering servant that gave hope in His dying breath.

This God hasn’t given up on us. And he hasn’t given up on the world he created.

The Jesus Chronicles – The King has gone | Easter Saturday

The women wept, the soldiers gambled, one prisoner mocked, the other pleaded. The centurion acknowledged that they’d killed the king.

The next day was dark. Not the darkness that had come with Jesus’ death, the sun rose as usual. But the light had gone.

The night before Jesus’ death he prayed in the garden and asked his father to take this cup from him, but only if that was his will. He didn’t want to go through with this, he wondered if there was another way, a way out, a way that could avoid the darkness. But the darkness was already around him. He had already been betrayed, the authorities had decided once and for all that this menace, this man who claimed to be from God should be silenced.

And for a day he was.

And so are the scriptures, we can only guess what went on during that passover Sabbath. The religious leaders were so keen to protect their purity on the Sabbath that they hurried him off the cross and into the pristine tomb donated for his body. They wanted this finished so they could enjoy their festival without blood on their hands.

I suspect the women cried and the men were silent. I suspect some were in shock, others angry, most afraid for their lives. Because the Son of God they had came to believe in was now gone. The one they had placed their trust in was no longer there. The distance was impenetrable.

The distance from God that they felt that day. The distance from God that Jesus experienced as he was torn away from the father he had known from the start. The distance that is reflected into this day when we call on God to answer our prays and all we get is silence.

Unanswered prayer is nothing new. When Jesus prayed in the garden, if this be your will, he was not pretending to be more spiritual than he was. He wanted to avoid having to die. How often we want to avoid things. We pray to God for something and he seems to reject our pleas. We ask God for what we want and he leaves us to our own.

How often we want to avoid having to die. We cling to ourself. We hold onto the life we know.

Because we do not think that God is there, we think that he has left us, ignored us, rejected us. We think that we are not good enough to come to him, and he is too far away to reach out to us. We think the distance is unreachable.

We think that the king has gone.