Frederick Buechner's words daunting words ring true today, "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid."
We've all heard the news today of the Boston Marathon explosions, we've all tuned in to watch the police, fire and bomb squads responding. It invokes memories of past tragedies within our national and global life, and it invokes fear for the future of our nation and global community.
For me, some of the scariest words within the recorded Scriptures have to do with fear.
"Do not be afraid."
These words are daunting; it's asking us to abandon the natural reaction to frightening situations. The realities of our communal life are that our God is often found amid this mess. We all want answers, certainty and the real story. But in the culture and time in which we live, none of those things are guaranteed.
To explain away this tragedy with any theological certainty would also be trite, foolish and a pity excuse for what real theological thinking should be. Many in the days ahead will rationalize this with some faith perspective that might not make sense.
My initial reaction is the Psalm that has consoled many in situations such as these. Psalm 46 offers these words, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult."
The Psalmist doesn't offer explanations to the tragedies in our world, but the writer offers the presence of a living and loving God. I'm not going to write this and say that this was "planned" or that the tragedy was for a "greater purpose." All those reactionary explanations can be detrimental. What we can be confident in, however is the hope of the presence of the Divine. A very present help that stands to console our fear and strengthen us in love.
Psalm 46 closes with this:
As all our eyes turn to Boston, as our prayers surround the people there, may we be ever reminded of the stillness we are called to, and the presence the God of us all offers. Boston, you are in our prayers. We will continue to follow this unfolding story, reminded that the world is hurting. While it would be easy to explain this away, I think the best we can offer is that the presence of God follows us all the day long of our transient life. In these moments of fear, that presence reminds us to be still, and remember that our refuge and our strength has been there and will continue to be there in the days ahead.
"He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 'Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.' The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid."