As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”
I have no words this week. No words to embrace or challenge the texts. No words to speak into the void that threatens to swallow us all. I understand Elijah’s exhaustion and desire to end his journey. The great prophet experienced an overwhelming sense of failure, a recognition that he was no better than all his ancestors. People had abandoned God and killed all the prophets. This is how I feel in the wake of the shooting at Pulse in Orlando. I, too, am exhausted. I, too, feel that I am no better at preaching the word of God than all those who have come before me. It’s possible that my life is in danger. I have failed. We have failed. People have abandoned God and the prophets are silenced.
The winds of violence destroy everything in their path. The earthquake of injustice unbalances and rattles the foundations of society. The fire of hatred burns ever more brightly. The cacophony of political rhetoric drowns out the sound of sheer silence. What words can I say that will change any of this?
I can speak of the heartbreak shared by LGBTQ people of all ages, colors, and races. I can tell you that it feels personal. I can tell you that dance clubs and bars are sanctuary spaces in this community. I can tell you that shooting people in Pulse is equal in devastation and violation as the shootings at Mother Emanuel. I can tell you that tears come to my eyes when I read about the open support for the survivors and those reaching out to LGBTQ family and friends. Tears come just as readily when people spew words of hatred and judgement on the victims, the LGBTQ community, and Muslims. I can say these things, as others have, and they will not be heard.
It startles me that people have gone back to their everyday routines so quickly. I want to scream out that these people who were murdered last Sunday in a place of sanctuary are my people. More importantly, they are God’s people. When did we become so immune to violence and hatred that we can just go on with our lives as though nothing has happened?
Perhaps we are more like the person in the Gospel story than we would like to admit. Perhaps we are lost in the tombs of denial and bound by the chains of outdated beliefs. We are possessed by Legion, more than we know, if we aren’t moved to compassion at the loss of any human life. Yet, that ancient Legion recognized Christ there in that barren, broken place. Are we so far gone that we fail to recognize Christ in Sunday’s victims? Look at them here, and tell me that you don’t see beloved children of God.
Elijah responded to God’s call to go back into the wilderness and continue proclaiming God’s presence to a wayward, violent people. The man who had been possessed by Legion responded to Jesus’ command to go back to the people who had exiled him and proclaim all that God had done for him. Now it is our turn. We are being called to go back into the wilderness filled with violence, fear, hatred, and separation of one human being from another. We are being called to go out with truth on our lips, courage in our hearts, compassion in our hands, and justice in our feet. Maybe if enough of us go, the still small voice, the sound of sheer silence, will be heard and we can breathe again knowing that Love will triumph over violence and death once more. Maybe together we can change what is.
RCL – Year C – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 19, 2016
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7),8-15a with Psalm 42 and 43 or
Isaiah 65:1-9 with Psalm 22:19-28 and