Psalm 103: 13-14
"As a parent shows compassion to his children, so God shows compassion to those who fear the Lord. For God knows how we are made; God knows that we are dust."
This time it was at the Boston Marathon on a joyous day with people at their best, but it's happened at other celebrations on other days that were just as fine, when all seemed right with the world.
This time it's our friends who left their homes in the suburbs, lined the city's streets to cheer on runners gasping for the finish, and ended up maimed for life, but this was not the first trip to a city that's ended in mayhem, not the only street littered with sweet kids and grown-ups bathed in blood.
Boston is a ghastly commonplace, even if we insist on thinking that "things like this" don't happen to us, or they shouldn't, or when they do it's somehow worse or more meaningful than, say, a drone wreaking havoc on an Afghan wedding.
Boston is one more horrific instance of what human beings do, what we're capable of, even as we're capable of selflessness and love. It's what we do, this sowing of evil, every bit as much as we sow good. It's who we are, this callous heart, this heartless strike; it is not alien to us.
No "monster" did this. A human being did it, one not as distant from us as we need to believe. We ourselves did not plant the bombs, but we could have. Another person planted them, but he might not have; he might have done good instead, because he was and still is capable of it. You may not want to hear this about that person, or about yourself. I don't like thinking of myself this way. But it's a denial we cannot afford anymore. This is a truth we need to know and build on.
It's damaging to the quest for peace to keep carving out exceptional cities, exceptional tragedies, exceptional monsters, and postures of exceptional morality and innocence. The world's healing depends in part on owning our intimate kinship with the enemy—the one out there, the one within. God speaks our names in the same breath.
Jesus said to love him. That's the heart of the gospel, but it's a lot to ask. Let's start with a confession of our own dust, and go from there.
You know how we are made, that we are dust, with hearts faithful and frail, lives that could go either way. Keep us in your way, O God, so that we learn to do no harm, stand tenderly with the harmed, and somewhere find compassion for all out human kin, the good and the bad, on whom you send your rain, on whom your sun still shines.
J. Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Worship and Preaching at Andover Newton Theological School.