And when I got back to the car, Joel had the radio up and his chin out, trying not to cry. There's been another school shooting --over 20 people dead, he said.
And the oppression of the anger, the grief, the helplessness, the why buried me in an avalanche. Turn it up, I said, because Paeha was doing his puppy whine in the back seat and I could hardly hear the sonorous voice on the NPR station --one of the two stations we get way out here. Joel turned it up just as they announced it was an elementary school, and most of the dead were children.
And I began my mantra for the dead --receive them God with open arms, may the saints and their ancestors greet them, the angels meet them and carry them home. May they find their place at the feast, and all their favorite foods --even if it's chicken nuggets and pizza. Father, look down with pity on those who grieve, and give them strength and courage to do all that they must do in the days and weeks ahead --you who know the loss of your own beloved child, put a mantle of comfort around their shoulders, a crown of mercy, the cloak of patience --make your presence known to them....
--and then somewhere in there, the string of cuss words, like pearls --each complete and perfect.
And then, as we knew to look for them, the headlines didn't improve all day long, nor in to the evening. The verbal gestures then began --time for more gun control, the second worse massacre, we don't need more gun control --just need to responsibly lock the guns away....
The shock. The grief. A nation reeling from yet another barrage of self-inflicted domestic gun fire.
And the picture of the children huddled without jackets, the boy with his hands to his face, the girl trying to comfort him seared its way in to the flesh of my brain like a hot brand.
Except, the gnawing reality... which I hesitated to say out loud --about which I was even ashamed to think on this day.... No, this wasn't one of the worst massacres... Not. Even. Close.
--the smallpox infested blankets... --thousands dead.
--the denial of promised rations if they would just stay in the
--the two hundred plus bleeding to death in the snow, shot down five days after Christmas at Wounded Knee... children --lots of children, certainly more than twenty, women, unarmed men --their land illegally taken, families broken up, starved, scared, running. Eventually dumped in to a hole, jumbled together, and marked with a cross.... And the men who perpetrated this crime were given medals of honor by the Federal government. 20 Congressional Medals of Honor.... (Only three Medals were given in South Dakota for the whole duration of WWII.)
The gnawing reality that what was being said behind closed doors here was --yes, this is awful, this is truly awful ....maybe now the wasicus will understand? Will they understand our pain?
Maybe now.... 105 men. Over 200 women and children....
--and I am left thinking that perhaps we can legislate the hell out of ourselves, but that won't stop us. Sin is sin in every generation --but who among us wishes to face it? Who among us can stop sinning?
At prayer this morning (Luke 22:31-38)
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”...the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one....
And he [Simon] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
He [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?”
They said, “No, not a thing.”
He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”
They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”
He replied, “It is enough.”
I have no sword. I have no gun either, for that matter. I don't want one either. I have at times grappled with this scripture --but with no lasting effect in my heart or soul. Why does Jesus tell the disciples to go sell their cloaks and buy swords? Is Jesus just being sarcastic at the end, saying two swords are enough... yeah, like, right. Two swords are enough for what? To face the Temple and Roman authorities...
What strikes me this morning is not the sword bit --but his line, counted among the lawless.... Were two swords enough to make him be counted among the lawless? Was it about being counted among the lawless --the transgressors --the ones needing redemption? --the living dead?
Some how, this morning, with our humanity once again rubbed raw, our souls unbridled in shock in grief --coming face to face yet again with our brokenness, particularly our brokenness as a nation --somehow it makes more sense this morning to acknowledge our lawlessness and our inadequate swords that we wield trying to protect ourselves from the very same....
(--and maybe even ask ourselves questions like, how come it is alright for a teacher of six year-olds to be a gun fanatic? --how come we don't care for the mentally ill? --how come it's alright to be shocked at the death of twenty children in white suburbia, but there is no shock over the deaths of twenty children gunned down every year, say, in the black or hispanic ghettos, or the suicides among our native youth?)
Not 'why' --but, how come?
And I suppose my own grief and shock will always be laced with anger.... --that is my own sword, great enough to put me among the lawless....
So, today I will pray, for the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles.... the children.
I will pray for the lawless --the outlaws. I will pray for all those who seek to do others harm.
I will pray that we see... that there is no 'why' that will be easily fixed....
And I will pray we find humility... and that peace which passes all understanding. Now. And always.