I wanted to share what The Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish wrote on his Facebook page as a response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, CT. I believe he captured what we are all feeling. Again, wise words from a wise pastor and teacher.
First, We Cry
Reflections on Sandy Hook Elementary School
First, we cry. The only appropriate way to begin to respond to the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is with tears. They are the tears that flowed in the little town of Bethlehem when, after the birth of Jesus, old King Herod slaughtered their children.
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’ (Matthew 2:18)
Matthew was quoting the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, which is at least to say that the tears we cry have been cried before and they will, no doubt, be cried again. They are the tears of all the parents who see their children die as a result of our wars, the injustice of poverty, the scourge of AIDS, the horror of hunger.
But once again and far too often, they are the tears we cry at another mass murder in our violence-addicted culture. Seven of them in the past year; the highest one-year count in American history. But this one would be unthinkable – our children – except that we’ve been here before at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania.
And so, we cry. We allow the tears we shed to break open a place in our hearts for deeper compassion, greater love and a wider willingness to share the pain of others.
Then, we shout. Like the Old Testament prophets, we shout our indignation at such a brutal intrusion of such sheer, unmitigated, demonic evil. The Governor of Connecticut was correct when he said, “Evil has visited this town today.” In the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, we shout our offense at bold-faced evil that is the ultimate contradiction of the life-giving, loving purpose of God.
And we shout the difficult questions that we often avoid.
Why is it so impossible to have a meaningful conversation about gun control in this country?
What will it take for us to confront the pervasive violence that seeps into our homes on our television screens and in our kids’ video games?
When will we acknowledge that there are tragic consequences when we take away funding for mental health services?
What can we do to calm our angry rhetoric and create a more civil society?
We cry, we shout, and we pray. We turn to the God who entered into the violence of this world to reveal the way of forgiveness, love and peace, We lift our hearts toward Heaven in the hope of hearing, even in the midst of our pain, the voices of angels singing, “Do not be afraid.” We claim the Advent hope of Zechariah:
“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
In worship on Sunday, we will lift our prayers for the people most directly impacted by this unthinkable tragedy, for all who love and support them, and for all of us who share this dark hour together. May the God of all grace surround those who have suffered incalculable loss with immeasurable love and draw all of us into the embrace of his peace.
The Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish
Hyde Park United Methodist Church
500 W. Platt St.
Tampa, FL 33606