Monday, April 15, 2013

Words At A Time of Tragedy and Sudden Loss

On this day of sudden tragic violence and loss, on days like this in Boston, days we are having all too often it seems of late, I think of these words written by my colleague the Rev. Burton Carley of Memphis. No words work, or suffice, which is part of the point of what he is saying, but the works of love we give to one another making the loving and healing God present, still I hope you find meaning in these words. 

..."At this occasion, whatever words we say seem inadequate. It is such a hard thing we do today, seeking to redeem a sudden and tragic loss. When you are hurting, you want answers and you need reasons. And we come up with them, from the silly to the sublime. But the truth of the matter is that even good answers aren’t enough.

Even knowledge cannot save us. Oh, it may teach us much about the cycle of life from birth to death. It may offer to us the facts about disease and the insight that nature is not partial to those we love. Even if in a thousand years all the secrets of creation were unlocked, science would not be able to explain what poets and artists express in their work. Or why a beautiful and brilliant fall [or spring] day can move us to tears; or why we may hear music so lovely that we are overcome with some glory or sweet sadness.

No, knowledge is not the answer to our grief, the gift we seek today. This is because what we know is less than what we are. This is because you don’t stop the pain with reasons or even answers, even though they are helpful. They don’t get to where it hurts in the gut and the heart. That’s because the problem of suffering, of grief and loss, is not about something; it’s about someone—someone in your gut and in your heart. [And even when it comes to Boston, when you didn't know anyone there, for some of us I know that the mere fact of where it happened hits the gut and heart because we/you know Boston as a someone]. 

The gift we seek today is not found outside of human tragedy, but comes to us from within it. I speak not about the consoling power of reasons and answers and knowledge, but about the work of love for that is how we redeem anything.
This work of redemptive love is the very essence of God--that transforming power which dwells within us and without. We are and what we are reflects the divine image. This is the essence of the message in [First] John [where it is written]: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

In our loss we grasp for answers and reasons, but in the end, as [St. ]Paul says, our knowledge will fail us. The gift we seek is a response to the loss of what was so precious and now is gone. The gift is to love even more, by loving life more, being more aware of life, of our relationships, of the earth. The task is to claim the goodness against the pain, to respond with faith "though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." The task is to accept the loss and still live, still love. Thus we honor [those who have died] by taking [their] goodness and making it our own so that we can share it with others.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece, Ron.