I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah (25:6-9):
And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts
make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the
lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over
all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants, who have died in war, civil strife, natural disaster, gang violence, and massacre, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 470)
Have you ever been shot at?
Has anyone ever pointed a loaded gun at you?
Has anyone ever pointed a gun at you and pulled the trigger?
Have you ever heard automatic weapons fire as you laid in your bed at night?
Has a place where you worked, or played, been destroyed by a terrorist act?
Do any of these questions make you impatient?
They are the sort of past experiences that may have come to mind this past week. By Sunday evening, we knew that people had lost their lives in war, civil strife, gang violence, natural disaster, and a massacre at a Las Vegas concert.
It kind of hits you in the gut. Or not. But if it does, if it is the sort of thing that lingers and eats at you, you are not alone. Here on the border - we are well within 100 miles of Mexico - many of our friends and neighbors have been touched by tragedy, personally or in community.
Veterans, refugees, law enforcement, everyday ordinary people - we all have something to mourn when a mass tragedy occurs. And some of us carry with us the seeds of reaction from a past tragedy. Seed of trauma relived - and also perhaps seeds of compassion.
Newspapers tell us to pray - or forget about it. They tell us to take action - of some sort - for the good of our own souls, if nothing else. That may be wise.
But we as Christians, as a church, have something more to offer - to ourselves, to each other, to God. Yes, we offer prayer - and live and act, knowing our faith is true - knowing that our own Lord was bent by trauma, by the horrific experience of betrayal, interrogation, torture, and death.
And he endured the shock of resurrection. We celebrate all this as we come together this Sunday, as every Sunday, in the Eucharist. And from here, as we take it all in, death, sorrow, comfort, and joy, from here we go forward remembering that God is with us, all of us, in these moments of compassion, remembered grief, cheap advice, and even anger. We go forward -
We go forward in the name of Christ, to bring comfort, honesty, compassion, and fortitude, with resolution, to build, and continue to build, a world in which tragedy does not go unnoticed, where one does not go alone, but where we continue painfully to seek answers, and solutions, even as we know they may be hidden from us.
What we do know is that we are with each other, beyond mourning, because God is with us.
What we do now - and maybe from now on - may look the same as what others do - but we do it in the name of Christ, as servants of the prince of peace. We may look at causes, debate actions, give of ourselves, look out for others, listen patiently - all of it that we do, or don't do, we do knowing we are not alone, we are people of faith, for we know the end of the story: that love is strong, strong as death, and love will last - as God is with us.
Where was God last Sunday? At a country music festival. At a hurricane relief station, lining up for water and food. Carrying a stranger's child across the border from Burma to Bangladesh. In the waiting area of an emergency room. And at a child's bedside as she fell softly to sleep.
God was with us.
God is with us.
God be with you. And me.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen. (BCP 833)