The ghosts swarm. They speak as one person. Each loves you. Each has left something undone.
Today’s edges are so sharp
they might cut anything that moved. ~Rae Armantrout from “Unbidden”
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are… Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.
~Frederick Buechner in “Wishful Thinking and later” in Beyond Words
Seventeen years ago
a day started with bright sun above
and ended in tears and bloodshed below.
It is a day for recollection;
we live out remembrance
with weeping eyes open,
yet close our eyelids
to the red that flowed that day.
The day’s edges were so sharp
we all bled and still bear the scars.
The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side. ~G. K. Chesterton
…our hands have always been able to heal as much as harm. …since the dawn of humanity, each of us contains three people— the angel, the demon, and the one who decides which we will obey.
It shouldn’t take plunging into a profound darkness,
swallowed in a pit of sadness and sorrow
to experience God’s immense capacity for love and compassion,
but that is when our need for light and forgiveness is greatest.
It should not take sin and suffering to remind us
life is precious and worthy of our protection,
no matter how tempted we are to choose otherwise.
We are created,
from the beginning,
in the beginning,
with the capacity to choose sides between darkness and light
and we choose too often to be cloaked in darkness.
Our God chooses to shine the light of His Creation,
to conquer our darkness through illuminating grace,
dispersing our shadows,
suffering the deepest darkness on our behalf
to guarantee we are eternally worthy of His loving protection.
How then shall we choose when He so clearly chooses us?
The snow is melting and the village is flooded with children. ~Kobayashi Issa (translated by Robert Haas)
A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Matthew 2:18 and Jeremiah 31:15
We think of him as safe beneath the steeple, Or cosy in a crib beside the font, But he is with a million displaced people| On the long road of weariness and want. For even as we sing our final carol His family is up and on that road, Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel, Glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,| The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power, And death squads spread their curse across the world. But every Herod dies, and comes alone To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.
~Malcolm Guite from Waiting on the Word
And the slaughter of innocents and weary road for refugees continues unabated- In observance of The Feast Day of the Holy Innocents:
There is no consolation for the families of those lost:
Their arms ache with emptiness tonight,
beds and pillows lie cold and unused,
blankets and cuddlies await all night hugs
that never come again.
There can be no consolation;
only mourning and great weeping,
sobbing that wrings dry
every human cell,
leaving dust behind,
dust, only dust
which is beginning
He came to us
for times such as this,
the dust of woman and
the breath of Spirit,
God who bent down to
lie in manger dust,
walk on roads of dust,
die and be laid to rest as dust
in order to conquer
such evil as this
that could displace masses
and massacre innocents.
He became dust to be
He began a mere speck in a womb
so often washed away from life
His heart beat
breathing each breath
until a fearful fallen world
and our breath
He shines through
the shadows of death
to guide our stumbling uncertain feet.
His tender mercies flow freely
when there is no consolation
when there is no comfort.
He hears our cries
as He cried too.
He knows our tears
as He wept too.
He knows our mourning
as He mourned too.
He knows our dying
as He died too.
as this happened.
Evil comes not from God
yet humankind embraces it.
Sin is a choice
we made from the beginning,
a choice we continue to make.
Only God can glue together
what evil has shattered.
He just asks us to hand Him
the pieces of our broken hearts.
We will know His peace
when He comes
to bring us home,
our tears will finally be dried,
our cells no longer
never only dust
as we are glued together
by the breath of God
the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1: 78-79
…deeds are done which appear so evil to us and people suffer such terrible evils that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them; and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it
so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; and this is why:
our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might and the goodness of the Holy Trinity.
And this is what he means where he says, “You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well”, as if he said, “Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, and at the end of time you will truly see it in the fullness of joy.
Today in the newspaper a whole page is devoted to the photos, names and ages of those cut down a week ago in the latest mass shooting, all victims of an unexplainable evil.
I cannot find peace in their deaths. If I were their family member, there could be no peace for me in the ongoing anguish and despair of untimely senseless loss. Only the intervention of the Holy Spirit can possibly change anger and grief to the fullness of joy. It can come as slow and imperceptibly as the still small voice.
I pray that those who have been hurt, who may never fully recover from their physical and emotional injury, may come to understand how such evil may be used for good. It is the hardest of all for our simple blind human reasoning to accept.
All manner of things shall be well – even as we weep until we are dry.
…And I think They know my strength, Can gauge The danger of their work: One blow could crush them And their nest; and I am not their friend.
And yet they seem Too deeply and too fiercely occupied To bother to attend. Perhaps they sense I’ll never deal the blow, For, though I am not in nor of them, Still I think I know What it is like to live In an alien and gigantic universe, a stranger, Building the fragile citadels of love On the edge of danger. ~James Rosenberg from “The Wasps’ Nest”
Anger is as a stone cast into a wasp’s nest. ~Pope Paul VI
The nest was hanging like the richest fruit against the sun. I took the nest
and with it came the heart, and in my hand
the kingdom and the queen, frail surfaces, rested for a moment. Then the drones
awoke and did their painful business.
It hung undisturbed the past few months as its busy citizens visited our picnics, greedily buzzed our compost bin, shot bullet-like out of the garbage can when I lifted the lid. In short, their threat of using their weaponry controlled all our moves this summer.
This nest is their nighttime respite for a few more weeks before a freeze renders them weak and paralyzed in slow motion. A thing of beauty outside harbors danger inside. I must not touch this tissue paper football nest with its beating buzzing hornet heart.
Let winter deal the devastating blow. As I am not in or of them, I cannot cast the first stone.
In a few short weeks, as they sleep, the north winds will tear it free from its tight hold,
bear it aloft in its lightness of being, and it will fall, crushed, broken, its secret heart revealed and all that stings will be let go.
It is Margaret you mourn for. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall”
This morning we weep and know why.
It is not simply the sorrowful loss
of the perfection of spring and childhood
giving way to the dying of the fall,
the last gasp coloring of leaves and skies.It is the loss of innocence, of sense of reverence for life,
this blight man was born for,
this bleeding out for no reason.
What must drive one man’s selfish rage, loneliness and despair to compel him to deprive innocent others of their blood and life?
What unexplained evil overtakes one heart that he seeks to stop the beating hearts of others before his own is stopped?
When will there ever be safe havens again in society?
Not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not concerts, not any place people gather.
This is a day for lament, for tears, and for prayers to God that we cry out and bleed out the spiritual sickness that is infecting us all.
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” ~J.R.R. Tolkien as Samwise Gamgee wakes to find his friends all around him in The Lord of the Rings
“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.” ~Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.
In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the sad events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.
We want those in a broken relationship to come back together, hug and forgive. The devastating diagnosis would be proven an error, only a mere transient illness. When a mass casualty event happens, we want the dead and injured to rise up again. The destructive earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute and lays down his arms, the terrorist disables his suicide bombs and walks away from his training and misguided mission.
We want so badly for it all to be untrue. The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb. We plead for relief and beg for a better day.
Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks. He knows and feels what we do. He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently. He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too has died. And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured, in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.
Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory. It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.
May it come.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. Revelation 21: 4-5