Once Again, Here We Are

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
Today, my heart is heavy as I review my sermon notes for this weekend. I woke up, read the passage for this weekend’s sermon from Acts 2:1-21, and reviewed my sermon notes.  Something stuck in my mind today. At the day of Pentecost, Peter the disciple of Jesus quotes the prophet Joel saying, “God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.”
There is great promise in this passage. A promise of sons and daughters who bring a prophetic voice to our culture. A promise of young persons who will forecast visions of hope. Lastly, there is a distinct promise of elders—those who have the power to create change—who will listen to these dreams of a brighter future. Today I struggle in the wake of another school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. I wonder if we are listening to our young people when they prophesy.  Are we capturing their visions of hope? Do we as elders still dream dreams of a brighter tomorrow?  A simple phrase has stuck in my mind today; “We venerate and forget.”
On March 13th of this year, a temporary memorial at the U.S. Capitol displayed a pair of empty shoes for each of the over 7,000 children killed by guns since the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A startling statistic is that more persons have been killed in schools in the five years following the Sandy Hook than all combatant and non-combatant military deaths since the 9/11 attack. At first, I thought surely this statistic cannot be accurate. In early March, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) published CDC statistics indicating 7,182 deaths in U.S. schools since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  In contrast, the Department of Defense shows that 6,957 soldiers were killed in all the combined military campaigns following 9/11.
In February, it was cited that there were 7 school shootings already in 2018; all of which were reminiscent of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. If you include accidental misfires, suicides, and stray bullets fired on school grounds the total rises to 15 school related gun incidents. 17 people died in the gruesome attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This Friday, it is estimated that 10 persons have been killed at the Santa Fe High School shooting.  These shootings have had a devastating impact on our social consciousness. It is a failure of moral and ethical awareness to do nothing in light of these overwhelming incidents.
We must not forget, we must not stop advocating for something better. There is a cycle to our social consciousness in America; a focus on the tragedy, which is then replaced a few weeks—if not days—later by the next story has changed the landscape of our social consciousness.  Veneration then forget. Veneration then forget. This has caused us moral turmoil.
Surely, something can be done! As I reflect on Pentecost, I think of the power of the Holy Spirit which came like a loud rushing wind. This loud rushing wind drowned out everything else, sucking the air out of the room and replacing it with the hope of God. I wonder what loud rushing wind needs to be heard to put an end to school shootings and change the topography of our social and political debates. These debates are weeds, which choke out a response. They draw resources away from a more beautiful future to flower.
Maybe today God is calling us out into the streets to create change.  Maybe today God is asking us to provide hope for the downtrodden, weak, and the traumatized. Can we dream and hope for a something better? Or, are we stuck in our debates, our tribes, and our sides?
~Pastor Jon

Click here to read the Pastoral Letter about Santa Fe shooting by Bishop Laurie Haller