Here I am on the evening of a day that has given rise to the twenty-second school shooting this year. I have watched again as students are killed, wounded, and traumatized. This is reported as if this was normal. And in some way, it kind of has become normal. I can't even imagine what it must be like to grow up in a world that has so many uncertainties and in which you are not sure what will happen in school.
I know others have said it. I also know kids have heard adults use the, "When I was in school______," comparison maybe too often. However, I must say, "When I was growing up I would never have even given one iota of thought to being shot by a gun while at school."
And yet, I just now remember in Junior High School being sent outside after a bomb threat was made in my Grove City school. We waited in a sports field. I remember I was glad it was during gym class.
After a search was made with no results, students were allowed to go back to retrieve belongings and go home as immediately as was possible. That wasn't normal though. I had nothing to compare that experience to at the time and I don't remember ever really feeling in danger. I felt safe, the adults were handling it.
Gun violence in our schools is an out-of-control problem. Citizens don't seem to know what to do and we certainly don't agree on how to make it better.
So, again, I pray. I absolutely understand the anger and frustration and impatience with "thoughts and prayers." People want action. So do I. As a follower of Jesus I want to put feet to my prayer, as they say. But how? I don't quite know. Yet.
I am not powerless, though. On the day after Pentecost Sunday I know there is a power that lives in me which entered this earthly realm with rushing powerful wind and flame. That power transforms ordinary people. There is unity of hearing. There is the possibility of understanding. There is a Breath of Fresh Air that turns the world we thought we knew on its head (spoiler alert for sermon on June 3!).
If you read that Pentecost story in Acts chapter 2, you cannot deny that this powerful event did not happen in a private nice ceremony followed by Jesus' followers sharing cookies with each other afterward.
It was seen. It was public. It was noticed on the street.
I found this in my journal dated 4/6: "Do your beliefs protect you from other people?"
You see, I am convinced with everything in my being that the Church of Jesus Christ (the people not the steeples) posses the most powerful possibility to bring new life and hope out of the darkness and despair that is the world right now. God has a force of reconcilers. God has a host of folks who can talk the language that is understood by any person. If we would just talk and act and reach out a
Peter said, in Acts 2:17, "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." He proclaimed to the crowds that day how God was fulfilling this promise in this very moment. Maybe we need to help people dream dreams and see visions again. Dreams of justice, equality, hope, love, acceptance, understanding. How would it change the circumstances for people who see no way to feel important, heard, noticed, or avenged than to shoot someone else. What if they were to experience genuine community where people are valued, there is enough for everyone, healing is possible, and even when folks disagree they love each other anyway?
Pipe Dream? Not really. Jesus said plainly, "Love one another as I have loved you." That's a whole lot of love the way I read the story. Difficult? You bet. Impossible? I remember that with God all things are possible.
While I was on my leave, Shelly and I attended a Dayton Philharmonic concert. We went because they were playing the music of U2 along with a group Windbourne who sang the vocals and added the guitar and percussion. It was great. Here's my journal entry from that night, "'I believe in the Kingdom come when all the colors will bleed into one.' That's what I want to be about and that is what the Church is about. We are Gospel community. Kingdom People."
If we lived in that Spirit Power what ways could God change our hearts, influence our neighbors, unify our communities, renew the world? I am not sure, but I have a good idea it would be like a fresh wind blew through our despair and ignited a fire of Life instead of death. I am ready to give it a try.
We have no time to waste playing around, Church, people are desperately in need of Jesus.