My wife and I are members of the Anglican Church of Canada. Moreover, my wife is an ordained Deacon in the Church, and today she drew the short straw - it was her turn to preach. She had prepared her sermon on Wednesday, as she was planning to spend Friday - her normal sermon prep day - on a day out shopping with a friend. Given the events in Connecticut, she realized it needed a significant rewrite - Friday’s events were not something you could ignore. Eileen does not have a blog so I asked if I could reproduce it here on my Blog. And here it is in its entirety.
A Guest Post by the Revd. Eileen Nurse.
Sermon, December 16, 2012 – Advent 3
1st Reading: Zephaniah 3: 14-20
2nd Reading: Phillipians 4: 4-7
Gospel: Luke: 3: 7-18
They were told to gather in the fire hall. When they arrived they were told that there had been a shooting at the elementary school that their children attended.
They waited and they waited. Eventually, children started arriving and they were reunited with their parents. The group in the fire hall grew smaller with the arrival of each group of children.
Eventually there were about 40 people left and a devastated official walked into the room and told them that there would be no more children arriving. The wailing and the pain could be heard and felt throughout the world.
I tried to put myself into their place – to imagine what these parents where feeling. But I couldn’t. There are some experiences that our heart will not let us contemplate – some emotions that our soul knows we cannot handle and so our brain will not let us go there. This was one of those situations for me.
I watched the news. I watched as they tried to pick apart every detail of what happened. I thought – why am I watching this – why are they spending all this time dissecting this tragedy? How can it possibly help to have all these news/media crews descending on this small town during this most painful time?
It came to me that it can’t and it won’t. But we had to do it anyway – we had to do it because after the sense of pain and anger, we are all consumed by the question why. Why did this happen?
If we can figure out why maybe we can stop it from ever happening again – maybe we can stop it from happening to us. We want to be able to point to something, anything, that will allow us to say – this is why they are suffering and why we won’t have to suffer like this. Why allows us to put some distance between us and their pain.
Don’t get me wrong – after any tragedy like this we must ask questions, we must try to find ways of avoiding any other town having to experience this kind of pain and suffering. But we can’t allow ourselves to get so focused on the why that we can avoid dealing with the pain of those who are mourning the loss of so many of their loved ones. Nor can we be so desperate to distance ourselves from this tragedy that we accept the easy answers.
The third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete” Sunday or Joy Sunday. We have been walking our way through this time of waiting and on this Sunday we have a chance to spend time reflecting that we are waiting for the incarnation of our God. We are waiting for the coming of joy – true beautiful unadulterated JOY
In Zephaniah and Philippians, we hear of God’s infinite and unconditional love. In light of Friday how do we believe in that?
John gives us directions about how we are to respond to that love by taking what we need and no more. We live in the midst of abundance in so many things but still we act like we have to fight for every scrap. Feelings of insecurity lead to feelings of fear and that leads us to thinking we need to protect ourselves – sometimes by radical means.
We’ve all heard “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. I think we need to change that. Tools don’t kill people but weapons do. Not all guns are weapons and not all weapons are guns.
Just as what my husband does when he writes software to run websites is the same as when someone writes programs whose purpose is to attack and destroy computer systems. They both use the same tools but their results are completely different.
Maybe if organizations like the NRA in the United States spent more time lobbying for gun safety and less about gun ownership people could see that there is no good reason for a woman in a small town in Connecticut to own so many guns – including an assault rifle!
I cannot condemn someone who goes out into the wild and carefully and thoughtfully hunts in order to provide food for their family. Especially if I feel it is OK to get into my car drive to the supermarket to buy chicken that was raised in a 2 foot by 2 foot container, shot full of hormones and never allowed to see sunlight. One is providing life out of the abundance that our earth can provide – the other is creating excess that allows part of our world to have way more then we need while others starve.
In a world of abundance – where we all recognize that there is enough for all, there is less need for us to fight each other to get what we need in order to survive. A society that recognizes its abundance has little or no need for weapons. And it was weapons that killed those 28 people in Newtown.
And maybe when we accept that diseases of our mind are no different from diseases of other parts of our body we will go a long way to solving many of our problems that lead people to be violent. Then, just like the diabetic can get all the help they need to live a healthy, happy life, someone who is mentally ill will be able to get the treatment they need and neither one of them will have to feel ashamed or guilty for something that is not their fault.
We need to have an honest and courageous talk about the place of violence and weapons in our society. We need to step up and help those who are in need of mental health care. Some say this is the time to mourn – not point fingers. Maybe we need to stand up and say enough is enough and honour those who have been lost by saying this is not going to happen again.
God didn’t abandon Newtown, Connecticut and neither can we. As each of those families were given the worst news they will ever hear, as they collapsed in grief and pain – God fell with them, shedding just as many tears and screaming in pain along with all of them. And we cannot pretend that this is just a problem for the United States – we need to make sure we are part of the solution rather than continuing to ignore the problem.
God is calling us to draw closer to the pain of others – so rather than asking ourselves “why them” – we need to be asking “why us”. It is only by finding solutions that help all become better, rather than just a select few, that we will truly create a society that can “rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”
I ask you to take a moment and remember those who died on Friday
Dawn Hochsprung; Mary Sherlach; Lauren Russeau; Victoria Soto; Rachel Davino; Anne Marie Murphy; Adam Lanza; Nancy Lanza
Emily; Charlotte; Daniel; Olivia; Josephine; Anna; Dylan; Madeleine; Catherine; Chase; Jesse; James, Grace; Jack; Noah; Caroline; Jessica; Avielle; Benjamin; Allison