Sunday mornings I always check the headlines before heading to church. Very often there isn’t much that stands out, but my favorite preaching professor always encouraged us to be sure the news sat alongside the scriptures. And so the habit takes root. On this particular Sunday, however, I’m not only not preaching, but I’m just about to be on vacation…and so for some reason I don’t. I don’t check the news or read the headlines. And it wasn’t until I got home that I learned of the horrific events that had taken place in the early hours of that otherwise peaceful and unremarkable summer Sunday morning. And so no mention was made at St. Simon’s that day, no naming of those who had died or were injured or who mourned was lifted in our public prayers. Those who knew held their grief and misery within themselves, and those of us who didn’t yet know had a few hours before the depth and breadth of destruction by one tormented human being would become known.
Words struggle to give voice to the many powerful emotions that stir within. Grief—for those whose lives have been cut short, for those who are suffering even now, for all of us that we live in a time when assault rifles provide the illusion that pain might be discharged by mass destruction. Anger—for all the times politicians and lobbyists and we ourselves put our own greed and self-interest above the common good. Helplessness—and weariness over a cycle that continues to unfold and a sense of despair that nothing seems to change. Conflicted—while I have a deep desire to mourn, to join with others in pouring out our lament by lighting candles, praying together and allowing the grief inside to be named, to flow out and to be shared, I am also on vacation both needing and desiring time with family, the chance to have fun and enjoy the gifts of life.
As people of faith, it is indeed important to bring what is happening today alongside scripture and the tradition we’ve inherited, and to do in our own day what faithful people have done throughout the ages, use our experience to inform and shape our understanding of ourselves, of life’s meaning and of God. While you can find slavery, admonition against homosexuality and incest in scripture, we now see more clearly that Love’s embrace calls us to affirm the dignity of every human being and to honor the divine in one another—even and perhaps especially those who differ from us, even our enemy. We take the map we’ve inherited that speaks to how to live such that God’s dream might be the reality here and now, and we adapt it as we learn how to do that ever more fully, before we pass the new map on to the next generation. The news alongside our stories of faith.
And at the same time, how are we putting our faith alongside the news? How does our faith inform our actual living—not just on Sunday mornings but in our daily actions and our decision-making. Do we live in the shadow of fear and death? The resurrection isn’t about what happens when we die, it is how this world works and how we might all live that abundant life here and now. Resurrection gives us hope that even the worst nightmare of our lives—and we’ve witnessed many both corporately and individually—are not the final word. That love is always bringing life out of death and will do so even in this situation, even in our own situations. When we can trust in this truth, we live without fear. We live in hope, faith and love. And we have the courage to ask ourselves and our communities whether we are living as Jesus showed us and invited us to live or whether we are following other gods of acquisition, power or fear. God stands not with the powerful but with the weak, with the vulnerable, with those who suffer and grieve. With whom do we stand? How are we caring for those who are mentally ill, disenfranchised and rejected by others?
May we have the courage to live with the stories of our faith alongside the news and allow the Spirit to move us toward God’s dream for this precious world in this present day. Now and always.