Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 3C

            So I had a sermon written for this weekend.  It had a good theme – a good catch line: “Roots vs Fruits.”  Seems to me that John the Baptizer is saying that we shouldn’t just rest on our past history of church going, of denominational dependence, of feeling entitled to whatever brings us here.  He points (John always points) to our fruits – what we have to show from living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day.  The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  JtB says to those gathered that no matter what their job, they are to be fair and honest in doing it.  That was the sermon.  Then All Hell broke out in an elementary school yesterday morning.

            This one is different, isn’t it?  It sounds as though it is a domestic violence episode to the nth degree.  It involved small children.  Even in the BCP (p 494), we recognize that the deaths of children are different than the deaths of adults.  Children have not yet become what they will.  When a child dies, the adults who love them lose the child certainly, but also all of the hopes and dreams they had for that child.  At least two of the children who were killed are Episcopalians.

            What are we to do?  This is the Rose weekend – the weekend of Joy on the Advent wreath.  We have Zephaniah encouraging us to sing, shout, rejoice and exult.  Paul in Philippians and Isaiah in the Canticle want us to rejoice.  Don’t they understand that we are sad?  Don’t they know what has happened?  Along with the crowd in the Gospel, I ask “What then shall we do?”   

            Our Presiding Bishop calls us to pray: We grieve with the many families and friends touched by this shooting in Connecticut. We mourn the loss of lives so young and innocent. We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief. We know that God’s heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation. And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day. More than 2000 children and youth die from guns each year, more than the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you pray and work toward a different future, the one the Bible’s prophets dreamed of, where city streets are filled with children playing in safety (Zechariah 8:5)?  

            Each of us has something we can do - just as JtB spoke with the different people in the crowd, encouraging them to be fair and honest in their work, we all have work to do in this tragedy.  For some it will be sending a card to the school or the local churches, for others it might be tacking gun or mental health issues - only you know what God has uniquely equipped you to do and what fruit you may bear here.  I do want to be clear - God was in that building - with each and every person, responders, teachers, students - God did not abandon them.  I hope that if you hear anyone say differently, you will address that gently.  How could anyone believe that God - whose own son died a violent death - whose son's body broken we will celebrate in a few minutes - would abandon them in their time of greatest need.  

           And then I circle back to the original sermon this week.  How dare we proclaim Joy?  How dare we not?  Even in our sadness and grief, we can still produce the Fruits: Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  That is exactly what we are called to do in this.  It takes courage.  It takes a history of living into the Gospel.  Keeping all this in mind, let us pray again our Collect of the Day:  Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


  1. Good connection with the Bishop's words, too. Thank you, Amy.

  2. Thanks for this sermon. I was wondering how you were going to address this issue and thank you for the courage to do so directly. It is so important for us to use the pulpit at a time like this to address the grief we all bear. I needed to hear this too.


Please be graceful with me and others!