Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012 Sermon--St. Luke's Episcopal Church Minneapolis, MN

This is the sermon I preached at my home parish in response to the shooting that occurred in Connecticut.  


“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strong hold and my sure defense and he will be my Savior.”

I had just got off the plane in Minneapolis on Friday and as soon as I got home Matthew and I turned on the television and watch with great shock at the shootings that were occurring in Connecticut.  As I was watching my mind went to the words of our Gospel today, “YOU BROOD OF VIPERS!”  Only a viper would do something like this to innocent children who were in school, a place where they should feel safe!  I could not keep my eyes away from the TV I called Katherine and we talked about this sermon and how it should be approached.  We talked about different ways of responding to the events.

The initial reaction hearing the news was that only a terrible person, a viper, would do something like this.  I wanted answers; I wanted to know why this happened why did God allow this to occur to innocent people?  In times such as these there are so many questions, so much confusion, so much pain and hurt.  To be honest, I do not have the answers to these questions but we search for meaning and answers.  It is in times such as these that we turn to each other and to God seeing for solace and comfort. I watched and saw how there were people all round the school hugging crying and being there for each other in that time.  Many of these people knew each other while others did not but it did not matter in this moment their were all the same a community of people hurting and deeply wounded.  We also turn to scripture looking for guidance.   I watched with amazement as President Obama teared up as he was speaking about the events that occurred Friday Morning.  The most interesting part that struck me was how he ended his speech with words of scripture he stated, “May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” I also turn to our readings today, Canticle 9 is one that has always been one of my favorites the opening, “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strong hold and my sure defense and he will be my Savior.”

I think that in many times we look to God and ask the same question that crowds asked John in the Gospel today, “What then shall we do?”  John responds, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”  We need to turn to each other and give a hand of peace and reconciliation to each other.  Not just in times such as Friday but every day of our lives.  We need to build a community where we no longer look at how we are different and focusing on ensuring that we are keeping the walls up between each other but rather we need to open the doors of welcome and consolation.  Our church is a church where we are all welcome and one that gives us safely in God’s love and hope but also one where everyone is a child of God no matter who they are.

But there is one more person that some might be forgetting and that is the one who shot all of those people.  This man also is a Child of God and even though it is hard for us to see God working in his life because of his actions he is no less a child of God.  There might have been mental illness or something else that lead to these actions but that is not for us to decide but we should still be praying for this man as well as his family.  Praying for someone who hurts us is a very difficult task to take on but it is one that Jesus himself spoke about, Matthew 18:21-22 tells us, “Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”[1]  Despite the terror, fear and pain, he created we need to try to forgive him.  This is something that will not happen over night but over time.  This is when we rely on our faith in God and our community help us work on being able to give someone forgiveness when they have hurt us.  I pray that God will give us the grace to be able to heal and to forgive.

 “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strong hold and my sure defense and he will be my Savior.”

I was reading Facebook last night and I was reading all the responses that were coming across there were people who are all across the political and social lines saying the same thing: “we are scared, we are hurt, we need to pray.”  The questions that I brought up earlier as well as the many questions that are coming up surrounding the events that happened on Friday morning are questions that we do not have the answers for and there are times where the answers can only come from God alone.  So how do we live in the tension of knowing that there are some answers that God can only answer and it is these questions that we might not get for a long time?  This is where our faith comes in; it is a tension where we continue to pray and to study the scriptures and serve one another.  We live in the moments of hope, prayer and service and this is how we live in to this tension. This tension is not a very easy thing to live but our hope in is God and in each other to help us through this tension.

“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strong hold and my sure defense and he will be my Savior.”

In this time of Advent when we are preparing our hearts to share in the celebration of the Birth of Jesus; we must remember what Jesus gave to us and that is the hope of the resurrection where we will be united with all the saints in the heavenly banquet.

May we spend these next two weeks of Advent in prayer and reflection on those questions that can only be answered by God and come together in prayer in community to help us on the journey of life.  Unfortunately, events such as the events in Connecticut will happen again but if we work to be with each other and serve each other and to stand up for change then we can cause great change in the world.  Many people say to themselves well I am just one person what difference can I make?  Well think about the apostles Jesus picked twelve apostles and their work and ministry has brought the Good New of Christ to all corners of the Earth.

These events have given me a fire in my belly to go out and work for change.  I invite you to join me in helping to create a world where all people are safe, where we can go to work or school and know we are safe, where poverty and injustices are worked in and to see Christ in all people where no matter who we are and what we are the core relationship we have with each other is being children of God.

“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my strong hold and my sure defense and he will be my Savior.”

[1] Matthew 18:21-22