In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 3C, what can we say?

I have nothing to say today. Do you? Let us all know.

This is all I know. A friend from my seminary class is the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newton, Connecticut. Another friend told us that the child of a college classmate of hers was one of the children killed. Knowing those people, even distantly, brings me, all of us, close to that terrible day and time and place.

I found these things on Facebook:
Steve Charleston, wise elder, spiritual leader, Episcopal bishop, posted this on Thursday night:

Standing alone at night, beneath a curious moon, I searched for that single star, the one that would be my sign of hope. But instead, I saw a field of stars, cast shimmering across the heavens, a countless sweep of stars, more than I could carry. Hope and you do not hope alone. Love and you do not love alone. Like stars our dreams are cast to high heaven, some to lead us to all we imagined, others only to watch over us on our way, but all shine together, all share the same beauty. We do not pass this way alone, but journey in light, beneath a curious moon.

From my friend Joyce, an art history professor:

… these things always seem to happen in northern/capitalist/Protestant countries. I am still waiting to hear about the problem of adolescent mental illness and social marginalization that is at the cause of all these shootings, on top of the easy access to guns. There is something about the loss of community and social support that leads to this level of despair. I also don't think that it's an accident that shooters often target children and/or carry out violence in schools.

A parishioner, T., who is a drama major, performed this semester in a production of A Thousand Cranes, that was performed in all the area school. The play concerns the bombing of Hiroshima, as seen through the eyes of a little girl. T. writes:

Coming off of A Thousand Cranes, I wish everyone would take a moment to contemplate how we treat each other. After the violence that has occurred in the last few weeks and over the course of the year it is clear to me that it is more important now than ever that we all treat each other with respect and dignity. Show others the same amount of love that you expect to be given and where conflict arises take a step back and try to see the problem from other angles so a compromise can be made. Remember, it is not the length of life or number of achievements that make a life rewarding but instead it is in the way we treat others and the world around us. Now go fold some Cranes and have a safe and happy Holiday.

A. is in high school. She wrote:

Let me just ask what the hell has this world come to, where a man can walk into an elementary school. Filled with CHILDREN, each wondering what presents they will get for Christmas, what they ate at snack, things little kids should be concerned about. 18 children as of right now ranging in ages from 5-10 years old have lost their lives. Their friends have lost classmates, and teachers; and in turn their innocence, sense of security and will most likely suffer these effects for the rest of their lives. Their parents have lost the loves of their lives. Horrific. Disgusting. Unbelievable. Those words don't even begin to explain this tragedy. And let me just say, I pray for that THING that caused all of this pain. RIP

C., who is a film company executive, posted:

Within a few days, we will know their names. We will know their faces. We will know what they liked, what they were looking forward to about the holidays, what their favorite subjects were in school, what they wanted to be when they grew up. We will know the twenty names with which, in a normal and sane world, we would not necessarily cross paths - unless they did something truly extraordinary  with their lives. And now, inexplicably, horrifically, they will never get that chance. Now, we must find a way to hold their families, teachers, and friends - in a way that we would want to be held were the tables turned - even if it is only in our hearts. There is no sense to be made of this, but we need to do right by the ones who are left behind, whose lives are forever altered. My hope would be, for this moment and those in the days to come, that these are the people on whom we'll choose to focus.

That is what the people say, full of grief and longing. The challenge to us is, what do we, the preachers, say?
Among Jenee Woodard’s resources, I found this from Diana Butler Bass from nearly two years ago, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. In Speaking for the Soul, she chastised preachers for leaving people hanging, people you are yearning with their very beings for a word of guidance, a way to make sense of the senseless, a hook, a frame, some way to put the unspeakable into the story of God among us.

At their best, American pulpits are not about taking sides and blaming.  Those pulpits should be places to reflect on theology and life, on the Word and our words.  I hope that sermons tomorrow will go beyond expressions of sympathy or calls for civility and niceness.  Right now, we need some sustained spiritual reflection on how badly we have behaved in recent years as Americans–how much we’ve allowed fear to motivate our politics, how cruel we’ve allowed our discourse to become, how little we’ve listened, how much we’ve dehumanized public servants, how much we hate.

Gail Collins wrote this in Saturday’s New York Times, reminding us that despite the remorse surrounding each incidence of gun violence, no one in civic leadership, from President Obama on down, does anything to change the law.

America needs to tackle gun violence because we need to redefine who we are. We have come to regard ourselves — and the world has come to regard us — as a country that’s so gun happy that the right to traffic freely in the most obscene quantities of weapons is regarded as far more precious than an American’s right to health care or a good education. We have to make ourselves better. Otherwise, the story from Connecticut is too unspeakable to bear.

If nothing else, we Christians have at the core of our story another story that is too unspeakable to bear. We are preparing this month to remember the birth of the child who will grow to bear that burden. Surely God, who gave us all, wants us, once we have prayed for the dead and comforted the grieving, to do more.

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