Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
–1 Corinthians 13:7
We began this week prepared to commemorate the first anniversary of the massacre of nine people who were killed as they studied the Bible together at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. And now, we are shattered by the massacre of fifty people in Orlando who were dancing, singing, and being carefree in one of the few places many of them felt safe to do so.
We can name the other places: Aurora, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, and on and on and on. We can try to name the names, and grieve the victims individually, but we will move on eventually in ways their families and friends will not. We remember where we were when 9/11 occurred, but the ongoing gun violence, like racism in America, seems to elicit brief periods of grief and anger and discussion, and then we throw up our collective hands because we feel hopeless to change anything. If the violent deaths of twenty first graders haven’t changed America, what will?
Last summer, my siblings and I were keeping vigil at the hospital with my mother in the days leading up to her death when we heard about the Charleston massacre. We went into the family dining area on the hospice unit, and three African-American women from a local church were there, unpacking food they had brought in for us so we could stay with our mother and each other. Already raw, I fell sobbing into the arms of one of the women with a mixture of gratitude, shame, anger and compassion. They could have been the victims. They were the victims. We say every week that “we are one body, because we share one bread, one cup.” In that way we ARE ALL Orlando and Charleston and Paris and Kenya, as members of the human family, broadly, and followers of Christ specifically. After we grieve, what do we do?
For me, the only way to bear all of this is with love. I do believe that love endures and what it touches endures, and that God’s infinite love demands hope. With that hope comes a belief that our actions matter. As “bold followers of Christ” at St. Peter’s, we are called to channel our grief, fear, and anger into actions that lead to healing and change. For me that has meant giving blood, calling my representatives, and bringing information about this weekend’s Stand Up Sabbath to St. Peter’s. What does it mean for you?