From the Rector
Lenten Fast and Shootings: First Sunday in Lent
Right now I’m listening to the sound of first and second grade students at Parish Episcopal School running and playing on the playground outside my office window. It is the background to many of my days, and I consider my proximity to all that joyful noise to be among the greatest benefits of my job. My own two children are Parish students, so I get the additional privilege of often seeing them during the day. This Friday morning, it is all smiles and happiness, as it is just about every day here.
I try not to take it all for granted.
Perhaps it’s because our own children have not yet been murdered, nor our own schools besieged by someone wielding military-grade assault weaponry, that we seem so able to disconnect from the news that greets us literally, on average, once a week. The Ash Wednesday mass shooting was the thirtieth in the first 44 days of 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The 17 confirmed murder victims in Parkland, Florida, bring us to 138 killed in our nation’s schools since the execution of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, and 438 others have been wounded in over 200 mass shootings in that same span.These are not soldiers on the battlefield. These are not drug cartel members waging war over turf. These are children in their schools.
This afternoon, as I listen to the happy voices of the children outside my window, I am rereading the Scripture from Joel that we heard on Ash Wednesday, because it seems to have been written for us.
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, “Where is their God?”‘”
Gather the people, and call a solemn assembly, indeed. Pray and weep and mourn. Cry out with rage and grief. Beg the Lord to break open the calcified, cynical, and complacent hearts of our society and bless us with courage and compassion. We must not be resigned to any more innocent victims sacrificed on the altar of our societal worship of weapons and power. We must not tolerate such carnage to be perpetrated in a nation founded on peace and liberty. The gunning down of children in their classrooms should not simply be “breaking news” that we quietly lament and then quickly move on from. It must be the catalyst for followers of Jesus Christ to “blow the trumpet in Zion” to signal the start of our response.
Perhaps the fast we need to declare as Christians this Lent and beyond is a fast from weak resignation to the sight of children running from schools. We need to fast from accepting this as status quo. We need to follow Isaiah’s lead and start breaking some yokes
beginning with our tolerance of dead kids. Because the sobering truth is that this will happen again next week, or the week after that. There will be more Parklands and Sandy Hooks. There will continue to be bullet-riddled school children for as long as we’re willing to stomach it.
As I look out my window at the children playing, I pray to God it won’t be them.
Parents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)