Tag Archives: Parkland Florida

#MarchforOurLives Wichita

This morning at 10:00 a.m. people gathered for the March For Our Lives rally in downtown Wichita. According to one news site there were over 1000 people. I believe it. I acknowledge that not everyone believes that sensible gun control can be accomplished or should be. I believe that one can honor the second amendment AND put restrictions on certain types of guns and ammunition. I have written about that  in this blog post.  And detailed the several blog posts I have done on senseless violence here.

When the shooting happened on Valentine’s Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School I was overwhelmed with sadness, grief and a sense of powerlessness. I wrote about that grief and pain as well. I am so weary of the craziness that seems to allow this kind of violence to happen again and again.

Today, however, felt different. The half a mile walk from our home to the gathering place at Park Elementary was brisk and chilly. I said to my husband, “I hope there are many young people there this morning, instead of just us old fogeys!” As we walked a couple blocks I noticed that there were many cars that were already parked. By the time we arrived at  the school we could see literally hundreds of people: young parents with children in strollers, middle school and high school students, young adults, middle aged adults and older adults. Scanning the crowd seeing all ages and races literally made my heart sing.

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The rally began with young people leading us, high school students encouraging chants and then giving directions. When there were cars parked in a private parking lot, these students took care of it efficiently and effectively.

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Once we arrived at the Old Courthouse downtown, every speaker, save one, was a student, half of them too young to vote.

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Each speaker noted that they are tired of being afraid. They do not want to go to school and have to worry if they are the next one to text their loved ones goodbye. In one way or another, each one said, “we may be young, but we are not going away.” In fact, they were clear that even if they could not yet vote, they had voices and they had passion and determination to change the world into one where children, youth and young adults will not be afraid.

As they spoke, I thought about that Jeremiah passage (1:4-8)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 
5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ 
6Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. 
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’

Now if you know anything about Jeremiah’s story you know it was not an easy task. He was persecuted, hated and there were many attempts to shut him up. Even in the midst of turmoil and violence, Jeremiah lived out his calling and shared both judgement and grace.

I find it somewhat interesting that this march happens the day before Western Christianity celebrates Palm/Passion Sunday. In another place, far away, Jesus rode into Jerusalem proclaiming a different kind of world, a different kind of kingdom. His love and grace in the face of hatred and violence is model that has been used since then to change the world. I grant, the world is still a violent hate-filled place, but following Jesus for me means continuing to stand up against all the powers of evil in this world. In fact, Holy Week is an invitation to do just that.

I have already read and heard the voices that are trying minimize these young people’s efforts and their pain. “Car accidents kill more young people,” or “suicides” and while that may be true, I can not imagine having to live in a world where I would have to be trained as young as kindergarten to avoid a shooter. Our children have grown up since Columbine  in a world I never imagined. This is not normal, nor should it be made normal.

I can no longer pretend that this is not hurting and damaging our children’s very souls. The survivors of these acts of violence will live with consequences of my inactions, of our inactions for the rest of their lives. More guns are not the answer and arming teachers doesn’t solve the problem either.

I believe sensible gun control provides part of what we need. Yes, I know that “criminals” will always be able to get guns. That doesn’t mean we have to make it easy. Obviously metal detectors help, but in the end, I think we need to be far more proactive. Limiting access to assault style weapons and the magazines that allow them to fire more rounds quickly is a start. The only purpose for these kinds of weapons is to kill human beings, which is why they should be limited to the military.

I also believe that the many violent video games with active shooters are part of the problem. I know they are “games” but the very fact we have thousands of people who have fun killing others on a screen is problematic. I have even caught myself wondering about the television shows I watch. I love when the good guys take out the bad guys, often using guns. Whether it is one of the superhero shows or a police show, the violence is pervasive through the entire hour. Maybe I have become immune to violence and think it solves the problem.

I am so proud of these students who have chosen to make their voices heard even as people disagree with them. I am so proud that they organized marches (which is not easy thing to do) with the help of adults in order to get their message out. I am hopeful for their sake, that they can bring about change, that they can work for peace, for justice and for a better world. They have begun the lifelong journey of working for what they believe.

During this Holy Week, Jesus faces down evil without violence. When he was being arrested, in the gospel of Matthew, one of those with him pulled out a sword and sliced off the ear of a slave of the high priest and Jesus said: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52)

Violence breeds violence, I know that. So I intend during this next week to pay attention to the violent tendencies of my heart. I intend to look to my thoughts and my spirit to see where I am hateful, where I am less than what Jesus calls me to be. I will pray for these students who are beginning to walk that long road to work toward change. I will pray for my city, my state and my nation as we wrestle with what it means to care for our children and to keep them safe. This Holy week walk invites me to remember how quickly I can go from parades to passion, from Hosanna to Crucify. May my heart and soul and spirit this week be one of grace, of peace and of faith in in the One who brings new life and resurrection through the power of the cross.

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No words, AGAIN, just grief

I have to admit, I have been avoiding social media in the last couple of days. Other than post Birthday wishes to my friends, and a quick peek, I am not spending much time there. I could say that Lent began and it is part of my Lenten devotion to spend less time on social media and more time with God. That would not be true.

On Wednesday afternoon, as I was going over the service and putting last minute touches on my sermon the news flashed about another school shooting. This time in a high school in Parkland, Florida. I don’t need to post any links it is all over the news. Confronted with services starting soon, I was frozen and unable to figure out what to do. In odds with how I usually handle these things, I didn’t change my sermon. The tragedy was mentioned in the midst of the prayers.

I am immobilized by what seems to be a non-stop litany of mass shootings. I have several drafts over the last year of blog posts that never got finished because I couldn’t figure out what to say. There are so many blog writers that can articulate the grief and pain and anguish better than I can.

In November of 2017, I started a blog and this is what was saved in my drafts:  

Another mass shooting. ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING. This time in another church, a small church, 26 dead,, 20 injured. I don’t know what to say anymore.

I didn’t post last week about the attack in New York City where bicyclists and walkers were run down by a truck. What is left say? I find myself sick to my stomach, numb to the numbers and my mind blank as to how to respond.

There are no words. None that can speak to this insanity.

And then three months later, there are still no words. I have wandered around with tears in my eyes and what little I have glimpsed on social media sites hasn’t helped. The left and the right posted incredibly unhelpful memes pointing fingers. These tactics do not change hearts and minds and spirits or bring back one of those loved ones.

I want to rant and scream and point fingers and assign blame. Instead like Jeremiah, I am appalled and grief stricken over the platitudes and empty words of us all, myself included. In chapter 8, the prophet says:

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
   my heart is sick. 
Hark, the cry of my poor people
   from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
   Is her King not in her?’
(‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
   with their foreign idols?’) 
‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
   and we are not saved.’ 
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
   I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 


Is there no balm in Gilead?
   Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
   not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water,
   and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
   for the slain of my poor people!

Or from the thirty first chapter of Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
   lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
   she refuses to be comforted for her children,
   because they are no more.

In Lent, in some denominations, Christians are marked with ashes. It is a reminder that we are fallible, sinful, prone to go our own way, prone to only look after our own interests to the exclusion of others, with a propensity for evil. We don’t like to admit to sin or at least to our sin being as “bad” as others.

In my Ash Wednesday sermon, I gave permission for people to not berate themselves, that instead of giving up chocolate or candy, to give up bitterness and anger and give it up to Jesus among other things. I am not berating myself, but I am confessing that I do not know how to address this kind of evil in the world. I am ill equipped to change hearts and minds and spirits and lives in a way that stands against the forces of evil and destruction and death that are so often made real in these mass shootings. I am an utter failure at encouraging and helping people be change agents in this world of violence and hatred.

What I can do is stand in God’s grace and love and be challenged to not give up, to believe that God is still active in this world and has not deserted us in the mess we have created. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to bridge the gaping canyon between so many people. Thoughts and prayers will not change the violence, the hatred, the bigotry. Thoughts and prayers will not heal the deep despair, pain and fear so many feel.

In verse 16 of Jeremiah 31:

Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
   and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,

and a promise of a new heart and covenant for a people in exile:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.  (31: 33-34)

I will trust that God is challenging me, and perhaps you, to not turn away from what is happening, but face the evil in the world with power given through the goodness of God’s grace and love. If Lent teaches me anything, it is that I believe in a God who is embodied in Jesus. In Jesus, God confronts evil all the way to the cross. Jesus doesn’t shrink away, but stands against the powers of evil. Jesus proclaims a new way of livings and reminds me and us all that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Last year, Jan Richardson, a woman of great words and beautiful paintings wrote an Ash Wednesday blessing for the ashes. In it she writes, “did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?”

She finishes the blessing with these words

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

So I am remembering what God can do with the dust and ashes of my life. I am reminding myself that out of my confession of all that I am unable to accomplish and do, that God is already creating in me a new heart and writing the law of love within it. Out of the tears and grief and prayers of my heart and spirit, God is making sure to empower me out of my frozen state into a renewed commitment to the reign of peace, justice and love I have been promised in Christ. During this time of Lent, I will focus on the journey of Jesus. I will walk the long road to the cross filled with evil, betrayal, injustice and pain and believe that there is resurrection and new life yet to come.

 

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