Meditation Given at Wilton Congregational Church for the Newtown shootings
Here we gather, and around us is the scenery and the props for our pageant tomorrow. Less than one hour ago this holy sanctuary was teeming with excited children reenacting the story of Jesus’ birth. They laughed and sang and said their memorized lines, sometimes screwing up or forgetting as children do. And this is the way it should be.
It should not be that children go off to school and do not come home because of one person’s heinous acts of violence. It should not be that this one person, who still yet almost a child himself, can kill and take away the very hope of life itself; children and the ones who chose to teach and nurture them.
It is not right at all.
The poet T.S. Eliot once said, “Every now and then, life drops an unavoidable question at your door.” We have now had unavoidable questions dropped right into the lap of our lives. ‘Why now? Where were you God? Why did this have to happen?”
But sadly, these difficult questions have no immediate answers that can possibly take away the pain, assuage the grief, or turn back the clock. There are no words that can make it all better at this very moment. All we can do is lean heavily into our faith that we will be comforted in time, that these families who were so violently torn apart will receive some sort of peace and maybe a portion of understanding that will help us re-order our lives.
I do not believe that this tragedy was in God’s plan for some higher purpose or that God painted this tragic scene in the lives of these families and ultimately ours to show us a lesson. That would be a manipulative God that I care not to believe in. I believe that God loves life, God creates, God does not destroy. God is for us and not against us. And I do believe that we can craft out of dreadful circumstances a vision of goodness and grace for us to order our own lives.
So what do we do with all of this heartache, this intense sadness, this lonely emptiness? Where do you put a pain so deep?’
We can either retreat from life or we can live boldly the future that these children would have embodied. We can take the smile of a child with us, we can seize the very essence of their living and carry it forward with us into the future. We can lift up their memory and then commit ourselves to a better future in their name.
We can remember that God loves us deeply, dearly and that we too will someday be welcomed into the cloud of great witnesses that have gone before us, the cloud that these people have been welcomed into. We can remember that life is finite; that each day counts immeasurably and that we must tell those whom we care deeply about that we love them over and over again.
As we sit here with Bethlehem around us we remember that Christ has come into this world to save and to heal, and to comfort us. That what lies in the manger is hope and salvation and that the beauty of life goes on.