Sunday, November 15, 2015

same song, another verse (a little louder? a little worse?)

It's not supposed to be like this.
No one has a right to walk into a concert hall, a cafe, a stadium, an office, a market, a grade school, and murder people. No one has that right.

The children must hear us say this clearly and with a whole heart. Who else can say it? Who else would? We are the ones sitting face to face with kids who question God, goodness, and self government, and all who represent themselves as being in charge of the world as it is 
It's not supposed to be like this.
The children must hear us say that the God who spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways—who in these last days has spoken to us by his Son—this God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of his creatures.

They must hear us say it's not supposed to be like this, and someday it won’t be—that the hope of the gospel includes a new heaven and a new earth where goodness is completely at home—we haven’t seen it, but in faith we see it coming. 
In the meantime, they must hear us proclaim that life is grace and horrible things happen; that the ground beneath our feet is prone to shift; that people are capable of breathtaking acts of love and self sacrifice, and staggering acts of violence and oppression; that the sun rises and the rain falls on the good, the ordinary, and the horrid.
They must hear us declare the mercy of God who promises the good news will one day prove to be as relentlessly good as the bad news is so relentlessly bad in these days. The children must hear us confess that life is hard and God is good.
But first, they must hear the active silence of us listening to them them. They must be convinced we hear their denial and fear and anger and confusion—that we have our own fear, and anger, and confusion.

They must see that we are not afraid of silence... not afraid to let paper and colored markers express what can't be spoken—knowing the children will almost certainly require more blue and violet and black and gray than yellow and green.

We must be prepared to talk when we believe they are ready to hear. Without glibness. Without talking down. Without bluffing.

Here's is a comprehensive list of things we can absolutely promise the young who live in our care:

1. We will do everything in our power to protect you each and every day.

2. ...(there is no 2).

We must not make promises we can't keep.

That said, we must not believe for a moment that being unable to do everything we wish, in any way disqualifies us from doing everything we can—or relieves our duty to wish and work in every way we must. Strength and goodness were never prerequisites for action. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the writer Annie Dillard asks,"or shall stand in his holy place?" 
There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been—and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day. — Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, Harper and Row, 1977 p 56-57
This is the spirit in which each generation of God's people ushers the next generation to that table God prepares before us in the presence of our enemies. None of us comes to this table because we are worthy. If we come at all, we come because we are hungry.

We must be present, ears and eyes and hearts open to what is before us and around us and inside us. We must push ourselves to remember and tell the truth as well as we can, and trust God to make that enough.
[This is adapted from from the silence of the lambs, posted December 14, 2012, following the massacre of children at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connencticut (which, in turn, was adapted from It's Not Supposed to Be Like This, posted April 16, 2007, following the slaughter at Virginia Tech). Here are some biblical texts that inform these thoughts and may be useful as you explore all this: the opening paragraph of Hebrews...2 Peter 3...Hebrews 11...Matthew 5:38-48...Psalm 24...Psalm 23...Isaiah 55]