Three days after the bombing at the Boston Marathon an interfaith memorial service for the victims of the bombing was held. Leaders of different faith traditions—Jewish, Islam, Catholic and Protestant—and civic leaders took turns to speak the words of consolation and comfort for the victims. They spoke of the good of the community, of the fact that so many people responded with courageous compassion and solidarity. Yo Yo Ma’s cello solo was deeply haunting and beautiful at the same time. Tears on the faces of the children’s choir members as they sang a gospel tune spoke volumes about our common prayer for the kind of world we live in. Someone said there is a good inside people, even toward strangers, a self-less good that we often do not notice inside ourselves and others. They spoke of justice; of hate not being able to overcome love; of overcoming evil with good. President Obama spoke of the un-finished race yet to be run with renewed vigor and resolve. And they, especially the religious leaders of different faith traditions, spoke of peace.
Especially thought-provoking for me was the following words of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick: “And America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals. And we have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play.” In that sense, America is an 0n-going experimentation. The country I’m from originally, South Korea, is in no doubt predominantly defined by a common language, culture and history. And I watch with vital curiosity the budding outward impulse in that country to re-think its identity as it tries to cope with the forces of globalization. I think about First United Methodist Church. Our members are from some 25 countries all over the globe. I do not want to call our church community an experimentation. It is a gift, from God, where we learn to be the citizens of the heavenly “kin-dom.” Here we practice unconditional love and grace, radical hospitality and solidarity with the poor and marginalized.
More than one speaker at the memorial service mentioned how people ran toward the scene of chaos and bleeding immediately after the initial shock instead of running away from it. I think about Jesus not turning away from but toward the cross, the ultimate symbol of human violence and absurdity. As Jesus was raised on the tree we raise our ardent prayer for One Great Peace.