(Photo of candles courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
My post title is a direct quote from the pastor of Marcellus Andrews, the 19 year old young man who was beaten to death in Waterloo, IA, while being taunted with anti-gay slurs.
There is a lot of darkness out there.
As of August 24, no arrests have been made.
As of August 24, the darkness specifically relating to this death is still out there.
Oh, I'm sure over time arrests will be made. I'm sure we will learn all about these perpetrators and their families just as we have learned about Marcellus and his family members. There's a high likelihood we will learn of some very tragic brokenness regarding the "perps" in this case.
That's when it gets complicated, because, you see, my Baptismal Covenant instructs me to "seek and serve Christ in all people," and it is going to be very, very hard for me to do that with Marcellus' killers.
It's so easy to see how the Light of God worked in Marcellus. He devoted a great deal of time to the Crusaders Drill Team of his home church, the Union Missionary Baptist Church. It's not as easy to see how the Light of God works in his murderers.
But it brings up another angle to the saint/sinner paradox.
I realize it is incredibly, incredibly easy to feel animosity towards people I don't personally know, as "bad people."
What strikes me, though, is how that can change when one actually knows the "perp."
I can say that because I have personally known, for at least a period of time in my life, known someone on Missouri's Death Row who was later executed. (He was my insurance agent and a friend in our local amateur radio club.) I was basketball camp roommates in high school with a woman who is currently spending life in prison for having, with an accomplice, killed her husband and disposed of his body in a vat of acid. When I lived in Columbia, I played softball with her and her late husband. At the time I knew these people, I would have never thought in a million years either of them were "bad people." I certainly would never have predicted how each of them would turn out.
Yet, I could see the humanity in each of these two people.
I am reminded that the only thing that dispels the kind of darkness we are talking about is divine light, as depicted in the line of the Psalm. It allows me to see each of these two people who were bathed in darkness as having at least a shred of divine light in them. I am sad for the pain these victims' families had to walk through.
It is easy for me to pray for the soul of Marcellus. It's a snap for me to pray for his family and for the children whom he instructed in his church drill team. But when Marcellus' killers are found, I need to remind myself that I found humanity, not once, but twice, in a very unusual place indeed, and to also pray for Marcellus' killers.
There is a lot of darkness out there. I can let my own dark thoughts contribute to the broken-ness of the world, or I can try to find light where none seems to exist. The choice is there for all of us.