You may have seen the image of a woman crying in Parkland, Florida, her forehead still marked with an ash cross. I do not know if she was among the parents who later heard the devastating news of a child’s death, but I know she is a victim of gun violence.
We all are now.
We can’t help but be, when it’s an act of faith to send children to school, to attend worship, or to go to a concert.
I was a victim of gun violence yesterday as I stood on the front steps of our church offering glitter ashes, when I briefly wondered if some passing car might contain anyone angry enough to shoot a middle-aged woman in a clergy robe beneath a Pride flag.
My daughter was a victim of gun violence yesterday when she and her friends felt little or nothing at hearing of what for them is just the latest school shooting.
And such fears of what might happen and moral numbness are nothing beside the real losses of members of our community to guns: the funerals of family members and friends taken by accident, crime, suicide...
I spoke with someone earlier this week who told me the world is a battlefield between God and the Devil, Good and Evil, on an invisible spiritual plane. Some passages of Scripture do present that picture (most notably Ephesians 6), and we surely are called to fight violence and despair and corruption with the weapon of fervent prayer.
But the most potent assertion of Scripture is that Jesus Christ on the Cross already is victorious. This is most eloquently claimed in the hymn found in Colossians 1 (Colossians 1:15-20). After naming Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation,” by whom “all things were created,” “things that are visible and the things that are invisible,” the writer makes the astonishing and expansive claim that God “reconciled all things to himself through him — whether things on earth or in the heavens.”
Reprinted with permission
Not “will reconcile,” but “has reconciled,” past tense, through the Cross.
This is what theologians call “realized eschatology,” or “inaugurated eschatology” (depending on how far along one believes God’s project of binding the world’s wounds has progressed). It represents a call to Jesus’ followers to persist in active witness and service to demonstrate to a doubting world that it no longer belongs to Death, but to the Author of Life, not to Hatred, but to Love.
On days like yesterday we may have a hard time believing that Life and Love win, in fact have won. I certainly struggle to understand how such destruction as was visited on families in Parkland ever can be redeemed, especially when our “Christian” nation seems so unable to change or even to talk constructively about the grief and outrage all of us — gun rights and gun control advocates both — experience.
But I do believe the message of Ash Wednesday that if we again, bravely and humbly, commit to walk towards the Cross, we will find we do not travel alone.
May it be for us a holy Lent, and may we grow in strength and hope as we go, together.
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