Gospel: Luke 3:7-18
1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Psalmody: Isaiah 12:2-6
2nd Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
About 4 pm on Tuesday I read on Facebook that there had been a shooting at Clackamas Town Center. For the next two hours I was reading news stories, listening to OPB coverage, looking out our church windows at the lights of the mall, and praying for everyone involved. Many of you were also praying and anxious about loved ones who were there or might have been there. At this time of peace, a troubled young man enters a building to destroy. At this time of joy, shoppers huddle together in tears in the parking lot. At this time of hope, we wonder are things getting worse. At this time of love we look at the stranger next to us with suspicion. Do we have reason to be afraid?
Sigh of relief
We jump to quick easy answers.
That doesn’t allow us to feel our feelings.
Sadness, anger, fear, numbness
We don’t just grieve what’s happened this week but other losses we’ve known.
Into this world, a child is about to born. He’s a vulnerable little guy without anything to protect him. God is coming in here to do something about all this. God isn’t going to sit idly by but is going to react. God is springing into action.
Now we are at this crossroads, waiting to see what kind of action it will be. We know the end of the story, but doesn’t it still seem possible that he will take up arms and fight the enemy? That’s the way most of our story books and novels and favorite TV shows and movies go. We meet violence with violence. If we’re honest about it, that’s what we think the solution really is. Even John the Baptist is not sure what God is about to do or what kind of Messiah this will be. He warns of the wrath to come and the ax just waiting to do violence to the tree and the fire that will destroy. But he also indicates that violence might not be the answer. He says not to get too comfortable thinking that your religion or family tree is going to save you. There are new ways of measuring whether you belong to God or not. You can know you are Godly through nonviolent means, by how you share, if you can be satisfied with less, if you are honest, and if you do your job well.
We’ve got this way of violence that we often turn to and we know the rest of the story, that God disagrees with our violent ways. God insists that violence is not the way and is not going to show us by strong-arming us or using violence or punishment against us. Instead, God absorbs that violence that we are dishing out. First God lives in this violent world and tries to show us how to respond to violence with sharing, being satisfied with less, honesty, and living out your vocation/calling (doing your job well.) And then God endures the most miserable violence that we can dish out and dies on the cross rather than raise a fist to defend himself. He shows us how to live in violence and how to die to violence. He shows us how not to meet violence with violence, but how to live in true peace.
Feeling of helplessness.
What can we do?
Feel our feelings and grieve together
Pray for peace.
Let the people know they are not alone
What has helped you in times of grief?
Write a note.
What not to say: It was God’s will. God needed another angel. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
What to say:
I don’t know what to say.
I am thinking of you.
What to do:
Be with those in need.
Be a good listener
Tell your friends and loved ones that you love them.
Take a long look at ourselves and our society and try to really understand what creates these situations of violence and what we can do to be peacemakers. We all claim these children as part of a national tragedy. Do we also claim the perpetrators of violence as part of our national tragedy. How did we fail these young men? What message do we send in this society that sends these men to take innocent lives?
Now we are at a crossroads with the shooting and violence down the street from us. We can respond with violence. We can arm ourselves. We can live in fear and suspicion of our neighbor. Then we become the very one we hate. We aren’t creating the peaceful world we want to live in, but one of more fear and violence.
Or we can respond with peace, with sharing, with loving, with opening our arms to others around us. We can take a moment to remember what matters most. We can take the time to let those we love know how much we care. We can lay aside our differences and come together to give thanks to God.
I think we can agree that we can give thanks for the helpers that far outnumber those who cause violence.
Because of the hope that God brings this time of year, coming in peace as a little babe, I have hope in the vision that he provides that will come to pass when we all participate in his ways of peace. There will come a time when brother does not take up arms against brother, but embraces and forgives. There will come a time when military might does not determine who wins, but people will refuse to fight and instead listen to one another in love. There will come a time when the economies of the world do not hinge on making weapons of war, but instead we’ll put our energies into making sure that everyone is fed, that all have medicine and shelter, that all who suffer mental illness can receive treatment, that walls and barbed wire fences are torn down between us, when we learn that sharing is more effective than taking, when we learn that we will not only be satisfied by less, but that less is better, when we do our job with the intention of making this world better rather than getting a paycheck, when we find that honesty and integrity not only build us up, but build up our neighbor and our world. Sometimes this kind of world seems so far away, but it is only as far away as we make it. And it is only a promise away—one of God’s guaranteed promises that we can count on, that we can participate in, that God is bringing to us even now.
Make yourself as vulnerable, innocent, and hopeful as a little babe. See the wonder and potential of this world. Be ready to rediscover it again as God transforms it into one of peace and sharing and honesty and joy and hope.