This has been a difficult week, one that began and ended with senseless, inexplicable violence. The loss of life at the shopping mall stunned us and gave us pause about our own “Christmas shopping.” Is it safe? Can it happen here?
Then, with these questions still fresh, we witnessed the mindless, almost genocide-style slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 caring and brave adults. That act tore open our very hearts and forced our own tears and weeping, even though our children were safe; even though we could never understand what the parents of these 20 children were going through. So we sat in our homes or at work in silence, sitting with these families, even though we were powerless to offer them any words, any acts that might comfort them.
And then the fear came and we began to worry about our own children, our own schools, our own security policies and procedures. And perhaps that is a good thing to do. The world has changed. It has become more violent. In order to keep fear at bay, we must change with it.
As a pastor, I can’t imagine what the clergy in Newtown are saying to their congregations this morning. Perhaps they are gathering in silence, literally and symbolically sitting with the families struck down by violence, death, and fear. What more can they do? What more can they say?
Are there any words to comfort them, and us, as we mourn sympathetically for these families? No. We have none; no words even approaching adequate.
Be assured, however, that, as far away as God must feel to those families today, God sits with them. And God has the WORD, and the last word. Death has no victory.
In our reading from Zephaniah 3: 14-20, in my own paraphrase, that WORD tells us, “From now on, God is your Sovereign, in charge at the center of life. There’s nothing to fear from evil ever again.” “Dear children, don’t despair. Your God is present among you.” “The sorrows that have accumulated will dissipate. You have carried those burdens long enough.”
The families and people of Newtown cannot hear these words today, let along find comfort in them. Indeed, it is difficult enough for us.
But the WORD of God is there for us when we are ready to hear it. God is patient. God is kind. God waits as long as is necessary to offer God’s Word and God’s presence.
So pray. Pray profoundly for, and sit in silence with the families of the children of Newtown, as well those who have been lost in too many acts of needless and senseless violence.
And when you are ready, the WORD is there. The Word that casts out fear. The WORD of hope.
Rev. Wayne C. Drueck