Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sermon - Dec. 14 (Advent 3) #SandyHook

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The prayer I read is from our BCP for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate on December 28. (On that day we remember the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth when the magi fail to return to him.) It seemed fitting to remember the Holy Innocents on this the 2nd anniversary of the shootings in Sandy Hook. That feast day occurs in the midst of the 12 days of Christmas, it is a pause in the midst of our joy and revelry, to remember that when Jesus was born, it wasn’t just a happy, wonderful time, angels singing. Death, violence, and terror were there too, all around him. And the innocents suffered. I think of the poem "Into the Darkest Hour" by Madeleine L'Engle:
It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss came
into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
In the darkest times it falls to us to have that stable in our hearts, to remember the light from God that shines. For God did not come to us, our Emmanuel, in the best of times, he came in the worst of times. He came in the darkness for people looking for the light. In this is our hope, that God’s son came into this world, in darkness, in the midst of violence and death, to bring abundant life.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~ Desmond Tutu
This week I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook who lives in Newtown. We were discussing an article on how one woman struggled to tell her young son about the tragedy in Sandy Hook when they came to Monroe for the town’s reading of her book.

My friend said, it was “a luxury we didn't have here- a choice to tell it or not tell it. a choice to try to explain the unexplainable.... that our kids had spent hours in lock down, huddled in a corner, lost people they knew... and that some people said it didn't happen. there's no escape from the dark truth really except through it.”

We have to go through the darkness.

Even there, John the Baptist who is crying out in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord, is reminding us of the light. For even there, Christ is with us.

2 years later, the tragedy still seems unexplainable. How one child of God decided to murder his mom and go to an elementary school and kill 26 children and staff. It was such a day of darkness.

28 candles are lit around this Sanctuary, remembering the deaths that occurred two years ago.

Since that terrible December day, 227 have been killed by guns in our State. 63,169 in our nation. (That’s 3 towns of Monroe!)

I think of how many families have mourned the loss of a loved one due to such gun violence. The first reading for Holy Innocents Day from Jeremiah says to us: “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.”

So what do we do?  Hear the words again from our first reading from Isaiah, "The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."  Through our baptism we are anointed with the Spirit to accomplish these things!

There is much to weep about. Such violence should not be so readily accepted in our society and yet since Sandy Hook, little has been done to truly address the violence which infects all parts of our society, the 95 shootings at schools, the CIA Report on torture and even a recent news story, I heard, about a convicted felon in West Virginia buying a gun online and using it to kill.

We have much to do to make this a better society.
 In the words of MLK Jr. “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives… Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys… The aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community. Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permanent; only love can do that. Yes, love—which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies—love is the solution.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
I would dare say it is the solution for our violence problem as it is to the race problem that MLK Jr. was bearing witness to in his day (and ours). Such love is expressed in the words of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, “Be nice to each other. It’s all that really matters.”

My brothers and sisters, we are children of the Light. As the old proverb says, It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. It is time for us to remember, to share and to be bold in love, to be that light in the midst of darkness, even if we are but one candle in the dark, for our world needs such hope & such care today.
“Be nice to each other. It’s all that really matters.”  Amen.

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