Saturday, December 15, 2012

LIke Rachel we are weeping for our children

A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
Jeremiah 31:15

This morning, we gather to celebrate
the third Sunday of Advent;
we light the rose candle,
and we hear readings full of joy
—joy in the words of the prophet Zephaniah,
in the beautiful Song of Isaiah,
and in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Today, though it might feel like a normal Sunday,
we know things are different.
We can see some of the difference:
I’ve chosen to forgo the rose vestments
I’d normally wear on this day,
and our paschal candle, a symbol of Easter,
            of the resurrection,
is lit alongside our Advent wreath.
The more significant difference, I dare say,
is in our hearts.
For there can be little joy in our hearts
as we mourn the senseless killing
            of 20 innocent children
            and the adults who taught them
            and cared for them
just a few miles from where we sit.

Instead our hearts are cracked open with grief,
filled with longing for what we have lost,
overflowing with sorrow for lives cut so short,
for promises unfulfilled,
for futures not realized.

Like Rachel, we are weeping for our children.

We are weeping and yet grief is not our only emotion;
if you are anything like me,
your hearts may also be torn by anger
that this could happen,
filled with rage over a world so broken,
heavy with fear that it will happen again,
weighed down by despair over how to respond.

Like Rachel, we are weeping for our children.

It is in moments like these I am especially grateful
for the words of those who have come before us,
the words in our prayer book
and in scripture
that remind us
that death does not hold the final answer for us,
that we are a resurrection people,
and that as St. Paul wrote
in his letter to the Romans,
                        “… neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present,
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our LordRomans 8:39

Even with that consolation,
even with that promise,
we weep for our children
and we long for a way to respond.
It is easy for us to feel helpless,
to feel powerless in the face of evil,
to feel hopeless in the face
of such overwhelming loss.
And it is true,
we cannot do anything
to bring back those who are gone,
to take back the hurt,
to erase the damage inflicted on those in Newtown,
and on the greater world
But there are nonetheless things we can do.

We can pray. 
We can pray for the repose of the souls
of all those who have died.
And we can pray for all who mourn,
all who are suffering,
all who have been touched by this horror.
We can pray that we might be called together
to address the roots of such senseless violence,
and we can pray that God holds us close
as we deal with the tragic aftermath
of Friday’s shootings. 
We can pray because in prayer
we are called into God’s presence,
we are touched by God’s spirit,
            we are held in God’s gentle grasp.
We can pray because God can take it,
            when it is too much for us to bear
            God can take it
—take our grief,
take our tears,
take our anger,
take it all.
We can pray.
We can admit that we live in a broken world.
A world that is tattered and torn,
a world that has strayed far afield from God’s hopes,
God’s desires for us,
As God’s beloved children
created in God’s own image.
We can acknowledge that we live in ways
that often are contrary to the values
that Jesus teaches us in the gospel,
that we frequently fail to recall Jesus’ admonition
that above all we should love God
and love our neighbor,
that we fall far short of caring for others
in the way Jesus would have us do.

And we can act.
We can act by reaching out
to comfort those who mourn,
by not forgetting them as days go by,
by offering our love
and our reassurance
that God is still with us,
in the midst of all this.

But our action must not stop there.
As Martin Luther King wrote in 1963
after the killing of four innocent young girls
in a church bombing,
             “We must be concerned not merely
about who murdered them,
but about the system, the way of life,
the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

We too must be concerned
not just about this murder,
this senseless shooting,
but also about all the conditions
that conspire to make
such acts of senseless horror possible.
We must confront those things
even, especially the ones that may be painful
or contentious to talk about,
and we must openly and honestly address them
—things such as better ways
of controlling access to guns,
especially assault weapons,
ways of ensuring better access
to mental health care
for those in the throes of mental illness,
ways of acknowledging  and dealing with
the  glorification of violence in our culture
—and if you think I overstate this,
just look at the most popular movies
and video games on the market—
and the influence that violence has on our psyches,  whether conscious or unconscious.
We must act bravely and firmly
to challenge the status quo,
we must not let ourselves be silenced
by those who say
we cannot or should not change. 
In memory of all the innocent children,
we must act.

Like Rachel, we are weeping for our children.
And my friends, God weeps with us.
God is with us in our grief,
our anger, our sorrow.
God is with us now and always.

God is with us now and always.
Is that, in fact, not the hope of Advent,
the hope that sustains us?

Even though joy may not be in our hearts this day,
the hope of that joy is ever present.

We hear that hope in the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
With weeping they shall come,
   and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will turn their mourning into joy,
   I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow
Jeremiah 31:9,13b

And we hear it in the words of the psalmist:
Weeping may endure for a night
but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

That joy is perhaps never more evident
than in our celebration of the nativity,
as we welcome and honor
that tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in the manger,
that tiny babe whose life means so much for ours,
and in whose death our promise of salvation rests.

Even in our grief, that hope, that joy,
that saving grace are there for us.

Like Rachel, we are weeping for our children,
and God is weeping with us
but that is not the end of the story
for weeping may endure for the night
but joy will come in the morning.



Sharon said...

Not rambly at all. It gave me an idea of how to structure some things in mine.

I was inspired by what you wrote personally, as well as from a preaching point of view.

Thank you!

Mark K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martha Spong said...


Rev. Pat Raube said...

Kris, this is a prophetic word. Thank you.