Suffer The Children

Rev. David Moyer, Conference Minister of the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ was asked, along with other clergy, to share some remarks at a recent Candlelight Vigil held in Madison, WI that brought together faith and community groups who wish to witness to peace and to a lessening of the culture of gun violence in our country.

The following is a draft of Rev. Moyer’s statement at the Vigil:

Grace, mercy, and peace be with us all, as we live into God‘s great hope for the whole creation.

My name is David Moyer. I am the Conference Minister of the Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ, a gathering of 224 congregations of this Protestant tradition in the state of Wisconsin.

One day when Jesus was teaching in a public place, a group of children was brought to him. I suspect they were noisy and eager to find their way into the center of things, as children are, and Jesus’ assistants shooed them away. But Jesus as a teacher had time not only for the advanced theology lessons for adults, but also for some primary lessons to children (with adults clearly part of his target audience in “overhearing” the Good News).

Indeed, in welcoming the children, Jesus made a radical statement in saying that it is ultimately to children, or those with the courage to live with childlike trust and hope, that the reality of God’s intended reign belongs.

Those who seek to follow a way of justice and peace have an obligation not only to guide and protect children, but to learn from them how to welcome God’s love, mercy, and purposes, made new every day.

Safe places for children to live and learn; to play and love; to be fed in body and spirit is a significant obligation of not only faith communities but also the entire community. It is an essential part of our social compact.

As people of faith, we work for children to have opportunity, education, and safety. As I experience the news of the murder of children at their school desks, in places of worship, in city parks and streets and in their own homes, I am haunted by Jesus’s words that it is to children that the reign of God is entrusted.

My heart goes out in grief, compassion and prayer to the parents who trustingly sent their children off to school in Connecticut and so many other places, never to have seen them again.

I am left absolutely brokenhearted with the Chicago mother who last week lost the last of her four children, every one murdered.

I feel the abject pain of the funeral director from the south side of Chicago who, a couple years ago was interviewed as his staff was helping a family bury their son; the 75th young man’s funeral this single funeral home had handled that year. All murdered.

I think of the pride of parents as their daughter marched in the parade honoring the inauguration of our President, and then, only a few days later, had to lay her to rest, murdered while with friends in a city park shelter.

I have little to contribute to the understanding of these unthinkable events, to explaining them or providing a theology that preserves the goodness of God in the face of this tragedy, and, yes, evil.

What I do believe I can affirm is that the heart of God is breaking at the violence that we human beings commit against one another when each of us is a precious child.

I believe I can affirm that the Jesus who welcomed children, intended for them to have the chance to experience the fullness of God’s love and the opportunity to grow into all God intended for them.

I believe that I can say without reservation that the proliferation of violence in our society in this country, increasingly through the use of guns, is contrary to God’s purposes and falls far short of the best that we as a great nation can provide for our citizens, our children.

I experience life that has necessary and accepted boundaries on all variety of my personal behavior and my individual rights and yours. All kinds of ways that the greater good of the greater number of my and your fellow citizens are insured by reasonable qualifiers on my individual freedoms. I not only accept these things, but I welcome them as essential and foundational to life in human community.

It is my hope that tonight and in many other places we will light candles of change that will allow us to take small, practical, hope-filled, faith-guided steps to reduce the chances that children of any age and of any race or religion or economic state will die by gun violence.

I understand the human condition, and I entirely accept that we cannot make life for anyone entirely safe or secure. The universe incorporates chance and the human creation has been given choice. But we can, and daily do, try to expand the gracious aspects of these gifts and reduce their dangerous and destructive potentials.

I ask my church to pray daily for strength and comfort to the families of victims and of those who have lost that which was most precious and to pray that we will return to our senses and do all we are able to do, within the law and with great moral purpose, to “suffer the children” to come into the fullness of God’s intent for them, and for their clear role in our future.

With the greatest of hope and in the grace and love of God who is seen most clearly for me in Jesus.

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