I don’t have to preach anywhere today.
I’m a little grateful, selfishly, for that. I think my sermon would sound like an article from the Onion right now. “Let’s all hold hands and cry for a bit, because this is awful. And I don’t have words to make it comprehensible, or bearable.”
I spent Friday morning at the graduation of one of the Canterbury students. It was hopeful and joyous– the beginning of “real life” starting for a new generation. Just as it should be.
And then I got in my car, turned on the news, and heard about Newtown. Burst into tears.
Came home, checked Twitter, and watched the continuous feed of prayers, questions, and laments ascending.
There is so much unknown right now. We don’t know how this happened. We don’t know what the shooter was thinking. We don’t know why. We don’t know what will happen next, what we should do next. And, we don’t know why.
There is so much we don’t know. And there is so much to grieve for.
But there are some things we do know. (Not many. But a few.)
The first is that as our hearts are breaking, God’s heart breaks too. God remains present with us, grieving with us, in the midst of this tragedy. No human evil can separate us from the love of God– no mental illness, no violence, no despair, no anger, not even death itself. As we suffer on earth, God suffers with us. I don’t know why this happened, but I do know that God is with us, and with the victims, and their families as they grieve.**
And I also know this: we are called to do something. As we stand in our grief, and in our anger, and our sorrow, we are bid by Christ’s love to do something to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We are called to pray, and to grieve, but not only that.
Because we have gotten too good at this. Over and over we have watched parents mourn children who won’t come home. We have come to view public places as places of danger. We have begun to live in fear of each other, and our communities.
This is not the way it is supposed to be. This is not the way God calls us to live.
When John was speaking to those who came to him by the river’s edge, he didn’t just give them a baptism, and send them on their way. He told them to do something. To live different lives. To reflect their experience. Soldiers had to be merciful. Tax collectors had to not abuse their priviledge. Everyone had to share what they had with one another. They had to live differently.
We, too, if we want to avoid facing another day like Friday, have to ask ourselves, have to ask of God, “What then shall we do?” How can we change? How can we take better care of those who struggle with mental illness? How can we ensure that the tools of death are not unleashed on the vulnerable? How do we make for peace in our world?
Because the love of Christ that surrounds us now, as we stand on this river’s edge, this love of Christ compels us to care for one another in our sorrow, and empowers us to move together, and act together, to find a more peaceful day, as the dawn from on high breaks upon us.
May it come soon.
** And those who would suggest that somehow God turned his back on schools have a perverted, slanderous, and unbiblical view of Divine love. “If neither height, nor width, nor depth…nor anything in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”, then surely the God of that sort of love shows up in public schools, and is with the children in them. To suggest otherwise borders on blasphemy. Period.