A Pastoral Letter from Marissa
Dear friends and members of St. Matt's,
Last night, we watched in horror as the news told us the story of yet another school shooting. This time in Texas. And this morning, the numbers have been updated: 21 people have passed away, 19 children and 2 adults. This morning in Wilton, our police and crisis teams are present at our schools, to support our kids, and to keep them safe. This morning, parents all around the country held their kids a little tighter and a little longer before letting them leave for school. Because we know that yesterday, there were children who didn't come home.
In Connecticut, we've felt this pain close to home. Just a few miles up the road in Newtown. And while it hits close to home, there is an intensity to the pain in this tragedy that most of us cannot know, cannot probe, because we have not experienced it. And yet, we have a responsibility, a part in it. All of us. As Christians and as citizens of this country.
What we've seen in these last few years is an escalation in gun violence: in schools, churches, grocery stores, malls, movie theaters. In every state. In every place. If you don't know the facts and haven't seen the numbers, you can find them here. If you'd like to see where the Episcopal Church stands on this issue, one good place to start is here. See your Bishops say that we have a moral obligation to address gun violence. While there is an urge for some to make this a political issue, we are beyond that. We are beyond partisan arguments and debates, particularly when it comes to our children. As Christians, we believe these things:
- Jesus tells us that he came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
- We are called to build a world that more fully resembles the Kingdom of God, where all people can have that abundant life. Over and over again, Jesus calls us to be active in that work - to be doers, not hearers (James 1:22) - and to take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).
- That world, that just, safe place we're meant to build is a place of joy - where there is no violence, where we exchange mourning for dancing in the presence of God (Psalm 30:11).
- Children are precious in the sight of God. Special to Jesus. (Matthew 19:14)
If you are lamenting this tragedy, this newest tragedy today, then know that God is with you. The God who lived and died among us is with you. Our God knows suffering, pain, and betrayal. I encourage you to wade into those feelings, make room for them, share them with the people you love, with a therapist, with me, and with other people of faith. If you need help, reach out and ask for it.
And then let that grief be transformed by God into something else - into the desire - into the power - to change this story. On Sunday, we will hear the story of the Ascension. We will hear Jesus promise to send the Spirit to be with the disciples, to clothe them in power. Jesus promises that the Spirit will give them the power to do the work they've been given to do. To lead a movement. To change the world.
Beloved, God makes you this same promise on Sunday and every day of your life. That you have been given unique gifts, that you were created in love for a purpose, and that you have, because of your baptism, the power of the Holy Spirit within you and all around you. It is within our power, within our hands to change this story. To insist on sensible gun control laws. To make a change. To protect our children and our fellow Americans. And I don't just believe it's within our power - I believe it is among the crucial work God is calling us to do in this moment. We do not have to live like this. We are people who believe in new life, in abundant life. We do not have to live in fear.
We have been given hands, feet, voices, memory, reason, and skill in order to use them to serve all people. We have been given resources by God, experiences, talents, and money among them. We have been given work to do that is only ours to do, in this moment. Together, the people of God can do remarkable things. Together, we can change this story.
In the 11th chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus comes to the tomb of his friend Lazarus who has died too soon. And he weeps. He knows what he's about to do - he knows that there is resurrection and new life. And yet he weeps for Lazarus. For what Lazarus has experienced, for the loss of his friend, for the grief of those he loves. Today, Jesus weeps with us. Let Jesus draw near to you. Pray for those who are mourning today. For the loss of life. For those precious children and brave teachers. Pray. And know that our prayer matters.
And when you can weep no more, let Jesus move you...in the way you act, vote, speak, and live. For this is prayer, too. Active, loving prayer in motion. So that we might finally put an end to the scourge, the addiction that is gun violence in this country. In the name of Jesus.