I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the anger, the blame, the fear, and the complete lack of change. Yes, I am talking about “gun violence”, but I could make this statement about other things as well. It’s easy to be outraged when a person open-fires in a school, a mall, a theater, or anywhere else. And it’s easy to blame politicians for not enacting gun-control, blame the shooter for not seeking proper mental health care, blame whomever didn’t report odd behaviors of the shooter to proper authorities before the shooting. The more anger and blame, the more fear takes root and we become more cautious around strangers, more afraid of “others,” and worry for the future of this country. These are not necessarily inexplicable reactions, but when we are governed only by our emotions nothing changes except our own anxiety seems to dramatically increase.
Living in fear and anger is not how we are called to live as Christian people. This week we read the creation story in Genesis and are reminded that all human beings are made in the image of God. We are enlivened by the breath of God. This is not something we are to bury within us or ignore in others. We are to seek out the holy in ourselves and in others and we are to breathe deeply of the Holy Spirit. This will not change the world exactly, but it beats living in fear and anger. Breathing deeply slows our thoughts and our heart rates, giving us time to let emotions settle and a way of peace to emerge.
This does not mean we do nothing. In fact, it means we follow Jesus’ commandments to love our neighbors and ourselves and, through this, we make disciples. Making disciples is secondary to following Jesus’ commandments, though. The call is to peace. It always has been. The world is a chaotic, stressful place and, likely, always will be. But for those who follow Jesus, it is also a place to live in love and peace. This call is not in spite of how things are, rather it is because of how they are; left to our own devices fear, anger, blame, and anxiety rule the day. Jesus knew the challenges we face, and he knew the need for a constant reminder to seek peace and live in love.
Now as my own anger settles, I ask myself what is the loving and peaceful response to gun violence and every other kind of violence? Nearly anything that decreases fear and increases a sense of hope and safety. In practical terms, we need better mental health care from awareness to treatment. We also need to know more about cultures and religious traditions not our own to decrease our mistrust and misunderstanding. We need media to publicize these kind of events without glamorizing them so that ideas do not take root in other unstable minds. Politicians should stop listening to lobbyists and pay more attention to what their constituents actually need.
This list could go on and on. Maybe some of you are in positions to make big changes. Most of us are not. While my heart breaks every time I hear of another shooting, I refuse to live in anger and fear. I will continue to seek out Christ in other people, even in the perpetrators of violence. I will pray for healing for individuals, for our country, for the whole of creation. I will not give up hope that human beings can do better than we are now.
I’m not an optimist by nature. Yet, I choose to believe that humanity is meant for good. We are capable of taking better care of ourselves, one another, and creation. Just today I said to a patient who is very fearful that Satan has taken over the world, “I have to believe that Love is stronger than evil. Sometimes it seems that evil is winning because the suffering in our lives or in the world feels overwhelming. Then I look around and see all the beauty and wonder that is still in the world and in every person.”
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
RCL – Year A – Trinity Sunday – First Sunday after Pentecost
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
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