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.

Newtown shooting: when the ocean between us is full of tears

I was listening to Joy to the World as I read the news of the shooting in Connecticut.

I checked my annoyance that Newtown was misspelt in the hashtag #prayfornewton.

I wrapped up pass-the-parcels, as many layers across the three packages as lives lost in a small town today.

I prepared games for a party, knowing that for a score or more there would be no more parties.

I followed twitter, with voyeuristic attention. I listened to the words President Obama summoned to describe the sickening feeling a nation, a world, felt as lives were ended and more traumatised.

I saw him wipe away a tear or two.

I felt the anger of those calling for gun control laws.

And the heartbreak of those wanting to postpone the politics until another day.

The aromas of the Christmas cake baking in the oven wafted through my flat, as I wondered whether there could be joy in this world. As people quoted the West Wing as the source of solace far removed from reality. A world where Presidents can quote scripture and it leaves tingles on your forearms and not tears in your eyes.

When ‘joy cometh in the morning’ is a scriptwriters gift and not a statement confounded by reality.

I have no children to hold a little closer tonight. But the fragility of life is closer than before.

Somehow, I try and and remember that joy to the world is not just a neat lyric in a carol we sing at this time of year.

Somehow.