“Prior to 1775, the area that is now the eastern part of the United States mainly consisted of British colonies controlled by the United Kingdom. The American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence, was a major step in the independence of the United States. The first battles in this war were fought in the areas of Lexington and Concord, near Boston, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. For this reason, the third Monday in April is symbolic for the emerging independence of the new country.”1 And so, “Each year in mid-April, thousands of people flock to historic Lexington and Concord and Minute Man National Historical Park to celebrate Patriot’s Day.”2
President Obama was right…when he said Patriots’ Day is “a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation.”3 But the fact that the President was talking about Patriot’s Day at a press conference at the odd hour of 6:10pm on a random Monday is clue enough that something was wrong.
We all know what happened on Monday; we’ve all seen the footage of the bombings, of the carnage; we’ve seen the human toll, the dead and the maimed memorialized in constant coverage loop. The bombs themselves could and probably were made on someone’s dining room table, crude as they were; I doubt many of us will look at pressure cookers quite the same again. These bombs weren’t made to take down buildings like in Oklahoma City, these bombs were made to kill, to injure, to terrorize, and that they did.
But they did something else too. There’s a popular quote from Fred Rogers, (Mister Rogers to most of us), that has become an internet meme in the wake of the bombings: “When I was a boy,” said Mister Rogers, “and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in the world.”
You didn’t have to look too hard to find the helpers in Boston. Dr. Vivek Shah was running the marathon, he was only 25 yards away from the first blast. He instantly started sprinting to the scene, thinking that, being only 25 yards away, he would be the first one there. He was wrong; he found, only seconds after the blast, dozens of people, doctors and nurses, emergency medical personnel and fireman, police officers and race officials, runners and fans, they had all run into the smoke and fire, into the danger, there was no hesitation. All around the Boston, people began opening their homes to victims and people with nowhere to go, restaurants and bodegas were handing out free food and drink, businesses were offering their computers so that people could find their loved ones, the hospitals were overwhelmed with people offering go give blood. Churches, including Trinity Episcopal Church just a football field away in Copley Square, opened their doors to minister to the hurt and afraid. As President Obama said, “if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.”4
Our world can be a place of great evil, as we can be and too often are reminded. Disease, corruption, injustice, and terror effect everyone and don’t seem to take a break. But we can be reminded once again in watching the events of Patriot’s Day in Boston, and the tragic explosion in West, Texas, that though God does not cause these things, He does not will these things, He does, however, redeem all things; God can and does take the horrific and somehow, not always in our time or in the way we expect, but somehow He takes the horrific and turns it to our good. God provides redemption in the helpers that Mister Rogers talked about, in the countless people around the country and the world who stopped and prayed, in the countless people in Boston who decided in an instant that the lives of others were more important than their own lives, who in their actions must have reminded God a bit of His own Son, that divine Man who gave up His life so that we might live.
And live we do. Little Ava Grace will receive new life, everlasting life, at the baptismal font this weekend, proving once again that the darkness can never overcome the light, that evil cannot finally frustrate the good, that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, that no terror can ever snatch us out of his hand. May the victims of the bombing be granted healing, confidence, and comfort, and may the souls of those lost rest in peace.
1Patriot’s Day in the United States, Time and Date.com
2Patriot’s Day, nps.gov
3Patriot’s Day Defiled, Washington Post, Aptil 15, 2013
4President Obama’s April 16 Speech on Boston Marathon Bombings, Time.com