Thursday, December 3, 2015

Words of Hope in a Time of Gun Violence

Another week, another shooting.  I have absolutely nothing to say.

No, impossible.  I have plenty to say.  Begin again.

We have been here before, and I don't just mean last week, with the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado.  The Advent readings take on renewed relevance in these days of mass murders.

Consider the first two verses from the Gospel text for last Sunday (Luke 21:25-36):

 21:25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

Clearly, our situation is not new.

On my way to work yesterday, I saw a Jeep with a spare tire cover that declared, "Fear not!"

Before I heard about the shootings, I spent the afternoon reconsidering those angel directions from our Advent texts.  I've always interpreted that angel greeting to mean don't be afraid of me, the angel who is speaking to you.

But maybe it's a more general directive.  Now I imagine the angel Gabriel saying, "Yes, humans, you have a lot that makes you afraid and fretful.  Put those fears aside.  Don't let them disable you.  You will always face fear.  Don't let it overtake you.  Don't let it blind you to the wonders that God has for you."

If it's not fear overtaking us, it's our impulse to numb ourselves to these horrible events.  How can people be shot at a holiday party?  Some of us will force ourselves to shrug and not think about it too much. 

But that's a sure recipe for disaster.  We don't want to let ourselves go numb.  All too soon, we'll be numb to everything:  the good, the bad, the ecstatic, the despair.  We sacrifice the good emotions along with the ones that make us uncomfortable.

Let us become modern prophets.  Let us see clearly our world in ruins.  Let us remember that God is often found in the rubble piles of civilization.  Let us remind our societies that God wants better for us than this--and we can do better than this.

It's good to turn to John the Baptist, as we will in the texts for Sunday.  We can be the ones calling for the rough places to be made smooth.

To paraphrase  the words of John the Baptist in a different verse (John 1: 20), we are not the Messiah.  But we have heard the words of the Messiah.  We believe the promises.  We know that God does not leave us all alone, orphans in a cruel, cruel world.

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