Friday, May 24, 2013

Amazing Grace

The news of the world over last few months have been hard ones for many people.

Terrorist bombings in the Middle East. 
The terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, and its attendant manhunt.
The murder of a British soldier by zealots.
A seeming never-ending pageant of children killing each other, and themselves, in gun accidents.
The seeming efforts by some politicians to enhance business profits at the expense of the poor, elderly and helpless.
Multiple devastating tornadoes, destroying homes and lives.

A friend wrote that she wished she had a way to filter out the news of murder, hatred and disaster. 

There is so much to trouble, and disturb us.  Where is our limit to be active, and compassionate?  How do we reconcile our duties and responsibilities to be compassionate and active with endless attack, when we reach the threshold of that compassion?  When our strength seems spent?

Over the last decade or so I’ve turned more towards my faith to try to find meaning, and strength.  I have to admit, it’s not always there to find.  

 However, I can often find some peace, at least, from some poetry, or music from that realm.  Amongst that music is one of my favorite hymns, Amazing Grace.  

Likely initially written as a sermon, and later put to music (after several trials the most common music is a recycling of a folk tune called “New Britain”) this is easily one of the best known hymns in the English Language.  But like most hymns, and pretty much all poetry, the search for meaning bears reflection and usually leaves one at several destinations.

Being human, I’m all too aware that I’m imperfect, and, as each of us, holds thoughts and secrets that we fear the rest of the human world to see as ours.  But my faith tells me that those thoughts are not completely unknown beyond my own soul, but are writ boldly before the ken of God.  Yet He still offers me salvation, with love and compassion.  

 No matter that I may feel overwhelmed, He is offering me a support, if only I dare to accept it.   

And with that promise of His unconditional love,  I can feel that I have some peace, and strength, and can, as the saying goes,  be steady and carry on.  

Until the next time.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
( The sixth verse was added to the song by Harriet Beecher Stow, in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, from a spiritual called “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"The Grave is Eloquent"

That was something that I recently saw on a nineteenth century grave marker in Leominster, MA.  The grave marker commemorates the death, in 1836, of a 4-year old girl named Susan.  The marker doesn't tell much of Susan, just the date and that her family felt compelled to inscribe her stone with "The grave is eloquent."

"The grave is eloquent."

Were they devastated by her death, and saw the hopeless silence of the earth the telling state?

Was she the victim of lingering pain, and the grave the peace she was released to?

Were they Christian, and saw the expressed hope of Christ's empty tomb as their prayer for reunion at the resurrection?

"The grave is eloquent."

We don't know much about Susan, just her age at passing, where she was interred and that someone thought that more than just the dates were called for, but chose to ponder other than her brief life here.

"The grave is eloquent."

This is what Susan's family, those responsible for her in death, as in life, felt was right. 

Right for her. 

Right for them.

Today, there is controversy over the burial of a 21st century person.  One Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

There were protests outside the funeral home that accepted Tsarnaev as soon as the location was made public.

Calls for burning the ashes and spreading them randomly.

Calls for burial at sea.

Statements from civic leaders that he should not be buried "here," for almost any value of "here" in the U.S.

The funeral director has inquired all across the country, but the answer is always "not here."

Very little thought is given to what would feel right for the family. 

Those who knew the little boy Tamerlan when he was aged four years. 

Who saw him grow. 

Who sent him to school. 

Who took him to worship.

Who saw the evidence of his crime, and the evidence of his death, on television.

I have always been an American.  Usually I've been proud of that.  Not always, but usually.

This is not a time I'm altogether proud of my nation.

I'm ashamed that both the candidates for U.S. Senate for Massachusetts have said "Not here" instead of  "we grieve with all the families."

This isn't about scoring points in some game of pandering to the bigotry of hate.

Funerals aren't really for the dead, they're for the living.  Those left behind.

We need to have compassion for those families who have lost.

All the families. For all the victims.

Compassion, and mercy, are not weakness, but strength.

The mother of this boy thinks she may want to take the boy back to Russia, where he grew up.  His uncle thinks that he should be buried here, as Tamerlan Tsarnaev made the Unites States his home for 10 years.

By the time you read this, the decision may have been made, and the body interred.

But where, and how, will be a telling sign for us all, as a nation.

A sign of our strength, our compassion, our mercy.

"The grave is eloquent"