Tag Archive for Episcopalians Against Gun Violence

The Body of Christ is bleeding.

Homily at the September Requiem for Those Who Died By Gun Violence

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

When you gathered in June, (I believe it was the first of these monthly Requiems for victims of gun violence), you spoke the name of Meaghan Burns in this sacred place. She is one of Western Massachusetts’ own. I confirmed her five years ago at St. James in Greenfield. She went on to serve her country in the Navy. She was stationed in Virginia. On the night of her death she went out to dinner with another sailor who had recently broken up with her boyfriend. As they left the restaurant, the ex-boyfriend shot them both dead and then turned the weapon on himself.

Friends, the Body of Christ is bleeding. The public health crisis of gun violence is exactly that – a crisis. A clear and present crisis. It is not far away. It is here. And it demands a response on so many fronts. Including that of faith communities. Bruce Springsteen has a song about gun violence called “Forty One Shots.” One of the lyrics is, 

“We are baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood.”

The Body of Christ is bleeding. In a few minutes we will say the names of 1000 of the more than 3000 people who died last month in gun violence in our United States. As we do it, we are doing what faithful women did 2000 years ago at the cross of Jesus. They were going there in sorrow, to bear a witness of love to the one who was dying.

In one of those gospel accounts about the women at the Cross, there is a man with them -the one called the beloved disciple. With his dying breath, Jesus says to Mary, his mother, “Behold your son.” To the beloved disciple he says, “Behold your mother.”

When Jesus does that, he unites all of humanity in the blood of the Cross. We are truly brother and sister to each other. When we say these names, we are naming our brothers and sisters. We are baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood.

And what happened after they went to the cross and after they went to the tomb? What happened after they spoke the name of the dead? The dead one appeared to them and they launched the greatest mission of mercy, compassion and hope that the world had ever seen. Their baptism in the water and the blood inspired multitudes to say that the world cannot stay the same. They refused to say, ‘it is what it is.” The world holds the possibilities of transformation, of new life, and of a new way of being. Or as the royal wedding preacher Michael Curry  constantly reminds us, “if it is not about Love, it is not about God.”

I have a wonderful spiritual director. Sometimes I go to her feeling discouraged. And she says to me “you are capable of more than you think you are.”

Photo: M. Tuck

Now we say the names of the victims of the public health crisis of gun violence aloud. We go to the place of the dead. We acknowledge them as our brothers and sisters. We state clearly that the Body of Christ is bleeding. And that we are baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood. And perhaps we will hear the dead whispering back to us. “You are capable of more than you think you are.”

Amen.

+Doug

For those interested in doing a similar service, click here to request an updated list of names each month. 

The time for silence is over.

 

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On December 16, 2012 there was a powerful prayer service held at the Washington National Cathedral in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Dean, Gary Hall, preached “Enough is enough. As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand for and with the victims and to work to end it. We have tolerated school shootings, mall shootings, theater shootings, sniper shootings, workplace shootings, temple and church shootings, urban neighborhood shootings far too long… The gun lobby is strong but it is no match for the cross lobby.”

On the day after the slaughter in Oregon, as our prayers go out to the victims and their families, it feels like the gun lobby is winning.

According to VOX, yesterday was the latest in 986 mass shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook (a mass shooting is defined as one in which four or more people are shot.)

It feels like the gun lobby is winning.

But we have been here before. After the death of Jesus, it felt like all was lost. The great dream of the Kingdom of God seemed over. Even the Resurrection of Jesus did not restore hope at first. In Mark’s Gospel, after the disciples are told at the empty tomb that Jesus is risen and they should go and tell this good news, they scatter.  “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:8).” The Gospel ends there.

We know they overcame their fear at Pentecost and began a movement that went out to all the world. Although our churches throughout history have been (and continue to be) deeply flawed, the Jesus Movement is still the greatest expression of mercy, compassion and hope the world has ever seen.

It feels like the gun lobby is winning.

The Church offers sincere prayer-filled moments of silence for the victims, but the time for silence is over.

Let’s get behind our President who says “there is a gun for roughly every man, woman and child in America. So how can you with a straight face make the argument that more guns make us safer?”

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Have you contacted your representatives in Congress?  Have you used your freedom and your faith to move the mountain of indifference?  It’s not too late to make your voice heard.

In Massachusetts we have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but we can do better. Ask your elected representatives why the proposal to limit the purchase of guns to “one gun per person per month” was voted down even though that would reduce gun trafficking.

Some studies show that the vast majority of NRA members want universal back ground checks.

If you are an NRA member, why are you being silent on this? Why do you let the Wayne LaPierres of the world speak for you?

I want to believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby, and that people of faith can make a difference. Another moment of silent prayer will not make it so. It’s time to make noise. Proclaim God’s dream of nonviolence. Proclaim it boldly and with endless hope.

+Doug

A Litany for Emanuel AME Church

CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 18:  People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CHARLESTON, SC – JUNE 18: People stand outside the Emanuel AME Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 

We Americans are so busy. We are time poor. Let us take a moment to let our souls catch up to our bodies, to reflect and to pray:

Nine people were killed in church by a man with a gun given to him by his uncle for his birthday. He had several magazines worth of bullets.  (Silence.)

A five year old child was saved by playing dead. This happened in the United States of America in 2015. (silence)

Gun companies have made record profits since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. (Silence)

In the State of the Union Address in January 2013, the President, referring to the Sandy Hook massacre, shouted several times “they deserve a vote. ” Congress has done nothing. (Silence)

Over 30,000 people a year die from gun violence in the USA every year. (Silence)

“With God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19: 26. (silence)

+Doug

Pray and get into the game…

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A couple of weeks ago Betsy and I had the enjoyable experience of watching the World Cup final in a pub in Ireland with rabid soccer fans. It led me to remember our oldest daughter’s first soccer game. (Don’t worry. This is leading somewhere.)

When Caragh was very little, we would kick a soccer ball back and forth to one another. When we signed her up for the league for five year olds, she loved it. The practices again had children lining up opposite one another and kicking the ball back and forth. But now there were drills too, like spreading out across the field and kicking the ball from one player to another down the field until the one closest to the goal would shoot. But no one played defense.

Now the day of the first game arrived. All the players went to their positions. Then the whistle blew and almost everyone (certainly all the boys in this co-ed league) converged on the ball, all trying to kick it in a jumble of bodies. This was not what Caragh was expecting. She came off the field, walked right up to Betsy and me, and with her hands on her hips she said, “Children are kicking out there. Someone could get hurt. And that someone could be ME. Do something about this!” (Caragh later become a fierce competitor and an outstanding basketball player known for playing with reckless abandon.)

Ok, now for the point. It is so important that we pray for God’s creation, for the poor, for refugees, for peace in a violent world. It is vital that we pray often (“always” recommends Jesus) and fervently. Prayer shapes who we are. But sometimes that can feel like gently kicking the ball back and forth in the safety of our own backyard. People of faith also need to act – to get out and get into the game. Jesus got into a “game” in which someone could get hurt and that someone was him. He gave his life for the life of the world – he took on the emptiness of death and filled it with life. He took on the cruelty of the world and offered a new possibility of compassion – a possibility that could not be killed because the Holy Spirit would not let it.

Earlier this summer, the Social Justice Commission of our diocese put out a study document titled “Not Only With Our Lips, But In Our Lives: The Church and Social Justice”. It can be found here. I invite you to read it. It is a foundational document as to why we must engage the issues of our time.

And I invite you to consider these opportunities for action, among many, to witness to God’s saving mission in this world. On Sunday September 21 there will be the People’s Climate March in New York City. This will be a hugely significant, history-making event. Join with our Missioner for Creation Care, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, and march behind a diocesan banner that reads: “Love God, Love your neighbor: Stop Climate Change.” Details can be found here.

As you know, casinos are on the ballot in Massachusetts in November. There will be a lot of discussion (and kicking) about this for the next three months. Our document A Theology of Casino Gambling has been used in dioceses throughout the country. You can find it here. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. Casinos are bad news for the poor. We follow Jesus.

Activists and church leaders are gathering to address the issue of violence in the city of Springfield. I will get you more information as it becomes available. Consider joining Episcopalians Against Gun Violence. They have a Facebook page you can visit for more information.

Governor Deval Patrick gave a passionate speech the other day calling for Massachusetts to help in the housing of the refugee children now in Texas. We are involved in a dialogue about this and will get you more information when plans become finalized.

And finally, thank you to everyone “out on the field” – to all who work for Jesus’ mission of mercy, compassion and hope. You are witnesses to the dream God has for this world.

+Doug