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A Pastoral Note in Response to the School Shooting

Scott Erickson, The Sorrowful Saint, 2016

Like many of you, I watched the news in horror as yet another senseless act of violence against humanity ravaged our country on Tuesday. Just a week after a racially motivated shooting in Buffalo, New York, this shooting targeted our nation's children.

I say regularly that when there is deep pain and suffering in our world, it has always been the Christian tradition to stare it down. To allow our hearts to be splayed open. To weep and mourn over the dark realities of the broken human heart which so often show up in the most devastating ways. To look into the eyes of the systems and patterns that have led to this moment and to move towards the pain. Towards what makes us uncomfortable. Towards that which we would like to turn away from. This is the incarnational way of Jesus.

There has been much said in the past forty-eight hours regarding tangible steps that can be taken in the wake of this event. There are those that are challenging the trite responses that are often given to events like this - the lip service that allows the guilt of those unaffected by the violence off the hook. There is indeed tangible change that is needed - and we should work towards that change together as a community. Our children should not afraid to go to school. And this work begins, as Christians, with moving toward the pain. It begins with empathy. As we see demonstrated in our Holy Scripture time and time again, transformation begins with tears.

In Psalm 126, the Psalmist puts to verse a prayer of ascent that is written during a time of great struggle. The people of God were coming out of a time of exile and captivity and looking with hope toward a new way of living. Clinging to a hope that could only be imagined, they grasped for words that would transform their imaginations away from baron wastelands and towards beautiful gardens. The Psalm concludes like this:

Those who sow with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with them.

It is the tear-stained path that leads us into pathways of hope. It is the broken and contrite heart that guides us into repentance and redemption. Eyes open wide to the darkness and the cracking of our world. And as we weep, we move towards the brokenness and pain, so that our hope might not be superficial or trite lip service, but might lead our society - our nation - away from the desolate desert that we see with our eyes, and towards a garden that is full of songs of joy.

It is true that our tears alone are not enough to change these patterns of violence. But may our tears provide a fertile ground for the garden of hope that is needed for lasting change to take root.

In these challenging days, please know that I walk with you.

To parents of children, or those that have children that are important to them in their lives, we walk together.

To those that are enraged by this senseless cycle of gun violence, we walk together.

To those that feel numb and paralyzed, we walk together.

To those who simply don't know how to feel or respond, we walk together.

May God's Spirit comfort you and guide us together towards hope and change.

Rev'd Ben

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