I’m writing this a few days after the senseless bombing in Manchester.
It feels like I have been winded and I am struggling to breath.
I am left reeling - maybe you are too. Is it because I love live music and I can empathise with the young crowd there that night? Is it because my mind was taken back to an attack at the Bataclan in Paris back in 2015 (a venue I've been to on several occasions)? Is it because those injured and killed fall largely into the age group of my own children (and perhaps of your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or cousins)? Is it because I’ve been to the venue where the attack took place? is it because Manchester is a city I know and love where family and friends have lived and worked over many years? I’ll never know. But I have wept and I continue to weep.
I was struggling to find a way to voice my horror at the attack against a backdrop of stories of Mancunians of faith and none reaching out to their neighbour, going the extra mile, being Christ-like whether they would name it as that or not. And then I found a shaft of light in the darkness. Then I found hope in the gut wrenching despair I was beginning to feel and it came in a surprising place - the Archbishop Cranmer blog (http://archbishopcranmer.com/blast-flash-fire-jesus-came-manchester/) which is a blog where politics and the church meet head on in a healthy debate. I rarely read the blog and I find it all too often too Conservative and conservative for my own tastes, but here, the author put words on my lips and a voice in my mouth and so I share the post with you with kind permission of the author (notwithstanding some editing of the original tweets posted in ++C's blog and the biblical quotes updated to contemporary English).
There was a blast and then a flash of fire, and then Jesus came to Manchester
“This is horrific, this is criminal,” said Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”
Emergency services praised.
Cobra committee convened.
“Please hold the people of #Manchester in your prayers,” tweeted David Walker, Bishop of Manchester. “We’ve faced terror attacks before and this latest won’t defeat us.”
Fear and division.
Thoughts, prayers and condemnation.
Evil descended upon Manchester Arena last night: his target was teenagers at a pop concert. He wore a vest packed with explosives and metal bits. There was a blast and then a flash of fire. And then everyone just started running, screaming and crying.
And then Jesus came.
“We are visiting for a health conference from morecambe bay trust tomorrow 3 Theatre ODPs available if needed,” tweeted Kirsty Withers, an NHS theatre clinical manager.
“If anyone needs shelter we are right on the outskirts of central Manchester in Salford, anything I can do to help DM me!!” tweeted science student Karolina Staniecka.
“Anyone in Manchester who needs to wait for their parents or needs somewhere stay or to make phone calls, etc, just DM me. We have tea!” offered the BBC’s Simon Clancy.
“Anyone needing somewhere to stay can come to our Manchester headquarters in the city centre,” tweeted Stephen Bartlett.
“Taxi drivers in #Manchester offering free journeys to those stranded after the events in #ManchesterArena,” tweeted Bethan Bonsall.
‘Very truly I tell you, just as you have done it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me,‘ said Jesus.
Out of the depths comes light; out of oppression, a new possibility and hope. You can blame and curse the Islamist in bitterness and hate, or you can sing a song of joy because there’s a better story to tell. In times of distress and suffering, there are little signs of the presence of the Lord: manna falls from desert bushes; quail drifts in with the wind; water is to be found in the most unexpected places. And the water of life is the presence of love and compassion, of guidance and affection, of ordinary people doing extraordinary little things to help their fellow man, for no other reason than that they want to and can.
‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and there we wept, when we remembered Zion‘ (Ps 137:1).
‘Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?‘ (Ps 94:3).
‘Is the Lord among us or not?‘ (Ex 17:7).
The power of death brings unbearable grief, but God restores the soul. To live is to praise. There is kindness in darkness, and mercy in Manchester. It is the intuitive pulse of faithfulness, covenant, unity and peace. May God bless those who mourn, and wipe every tear from their eyes.