This sermon felt like the last of a three part series. Parts one and two were the pastoral notes I wrote the the poeple of St. Andrew’s in the wake of the terrible shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. You will find the text of those notes below the sermon in this post.
May 30, 2022
Responding to Gun Violence Grieving for the Lives We Have Lost
This was a hard week to be away from you. The terrible events in New York and in Texas, senseless tragedies that have left us all weeping and enraged, weighed on my heart and mind, moments begging for a response, for interpretation, for meaning making…I will be honest with you. I don’t know how to find meaning, how to interpret, the shootings that continue to plague us. The Washington Post reports twelve mass shootings in the US over the Memorial Day Holiday. Twelve mass shootings in three days! What does it mean? The only meaning, the only interpretation I can find is in the truth to which these events point. We are a broken society, a broken people. What other interpretation is possible when a large number of our elected leaders are more inclined to govern our access to books, to regulate a woman’s bodily autonomy, to strip basic human rights from members of the LGBTQ community; than they are to pass legislation that will take weapons of war, guns designed to kill large numbers of people in as little time as possible, from the hands of teenagers? In most of this country it is harder to buy two boxes of sudafed than it is to buy two assault rifles and enough ammunition to slaughter a classroom full of fourth graders! What does it all mean? How do we interpret these events? We are a broken people living in a broken society.
These events beg for interpretation. They be for meaning making. They also beg for a response. I’m not sure that responding is any easier than interpreting, than making meaning of these events, but a response is demanded of us, the Body of Christ, the Church.
This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descends with a sound like the rush of a violent wind; tongues of fire settling on the Disciples; empowering them to leave the upper room where they huddled, defeated by their fear and grief; sending them out into the world, a world that was forever changed by their proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus!
We must allow ourselves to be filled by that same spirit, that same mighty wind from God, so that we might take up this fight once again, demanding that our elected officials respond to the will of the people whom they serve, and pass gun safety measures that will help to end the bloodshed in our schools, our grocery stores, our shopping malls, and in our churches; and we must do it now!
Below you will find a link the the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations web page of resources to Respond to Gun violence. On the page you will find a Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting. The list of shootings, the number of people lost, is horrific and hard to comprehend. They preface the litany with this statement:
We offer this litany, once again, with the reminder that one does not pray in lieu of summoning political courage, but in preparation for doing so. Bishops United Against Gun Violence invite you to join in this litany and our commitment to take action so that our country can be freed from the epidemic of gun violence.
We will offer our thoughts and prayers. We are the church, and we believe in the power of prayer. But we are also the Body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to cry out for justice, and to work for peace. We are called to summon our political courage and to demand the same from our elected leadership. Please use the resources below to cry out, to demand change, and to work to build the world that God envisions for each and every one of us; the world for which we all long; the world which will study war no more.
June 3, 2022
“Stop! Hey, what’s that sound…”
like the rush of a violent wind…
turning things over…
blowing away the chaff…
“Everybody look what’s going down!”
Some might call it the winds of change, but we know what it really is; the comforter, the advocate, the paraclete… the Holy Spirit; whom God has sent in Jesus’ name, to teach us everything and to remind us of everything that Jesus said to us. The Holy Spirit, who set the disciples hair on fire and sent them out to change the world. Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? It’s the rush of a violent wind, The Holy Spirit, filling the entire house where we are sitting.
It’s Pride Month, and this year, as the basic human rights of our LGBTQ brothers, sister, and children are being eroded, legislated away, all over the country, the Holy Spirit’s call to speak the truth, her call to change, strikes home in a profound and powerful way.
It’s June. The Supreme Court will go into recess in three weeks, reconvening in October. It is likely that, before it goes into recess, the court will issue a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that, unless the court changes the position taken in the majority opinion leaked to the press on May 2, will overturn Roe v. Wade, stripping women of the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies, health, and future. Overturning Roe v. Wade could also lead to the overturning of a large cluster of precedents, including the right to same sex marriage established in Obergefell v. Hodges. This year, the Holy Spirit is bucking some terrible headwinds; headwinds that threaten to blow us backward; erasing the progress we have made as she has tried to teach us everything and remind us of everything that Jesus said to us! The Holy Spirit is calling us to trim our sails and head into the wind, knowing that she has our back!
It’s June, the month when we celebrate graduations; unleashed potential, new horizons, a world of opportunity for the students in our midst. This year, as we bury a class of fourth graders, as we grieve those lost while shopping for groceries, while working in the hospital, while attending church, while mourning at a funeral… the Holy Spirit is blowing hard at our backs; whipping our hair in our faces; tugging at our clothes… calling us to stand up, speak out, and create change!
This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and gave them the ability to speak the language of their audience; to speak God’s truth in a way that people could hear, understand and embrace. We call this day the Birthday of the Church.
We have felt this wind before. We have felt it moving us, pushing us to act. This year, this year, it feels different. This year the stakes are too real, too apparent, for us to hunker down and ride out the storm. This year, as we celebrate the birthday of the church, we need to engage in a rebirth, reclaiming the courage of those early disciples; learning to speak in ways that others will hear and understand; standing up, raising our voices, and speaking the truth! We are all connected, one to another; and we are responsible for the flourishing of our neighbor! Our call to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves, stand at the core of who we are. And our baptismal vows, our promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; to work for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being… these promises must be the guideposts that inform all of our decisions, our speech, and most importantly, our actions. This is who we claim to be. This is the truth which we proclaim. This is the life into which the Holy Spirit, God’s Breath, that mighty wind, propels us!
Everybody look what’s going down! Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.