The Homiletics prayer that went out to subscribers yesterday has provoked a good discussion. Most of the responses received here have been positive, and appreciative. Even those who disagree with the “joyless” proposal re Advent 3 were grateful for the effort.
Most of those who responded with a different take, are positioning themselves as pastors who must lead a service on Sunday. No way they are not lighting the Candle of Joy. One person wrote, “Now, more than ever, we need to light the candle of joy and remind ourselves of our faith and our hope.”
Here’s the thing: This pastor wants to gather his flock and sit down with them, light a Candle of Joy and try to remind themselves of their faith.” What I am suggesting is that the pastor sit down, figuratively, with the PARENTS of these 20 five-and-six year olds, and SIT IN THE DARKNESS WITH THEM and perhaps light a candle of remembrance!
Do you think the parents got any sleep Friday night? Do you think they care whether Christians in churches like our might need to be “reminded of their faith and hope” at a time like this?
I don’t think so.
One person wrote, “The Incarnation provides those who mourn a beacon of light--and dare I say Joy--on which to fix the sight of faith.” Again, this pastor is speaking to the choir. If you are the pastor of any one of these parents, -- really? You’re going to say that to them right now?
(This could lead us to a discussion of Flew's "Gardner" story, or Basil Mitchell's "Parable of the Stranger." Statements, in order to be MEANINGFUL must be capable of verification or falsification or they die a death of a thousand qualification. "The sun is shining." "Why, no it's not, when I go outside, I see the Milky Way and not the sun. It's so dark I have to take off my Raybans. I have to use the flash on my camera, and moreover, stipped to my skivvies and laid on the lawn for two hours and didn't get a sun tan. The sun is not shining" Of course, you can come back, with, "Well yes it is shining, on the other side of the world." Or, as this pastor said, “The Incarnation provides those who mourn a beacon of light--and dare I say Joy--on which to fix the sight of faith.” Ah, no it doesn't. The sun is not shining, right now, right here on our side of the world. A deranged lad just shot 20 six-year-olds and their parents are writhing in unspeakable anquish. Unless we agree that these shootings are evidence that would tend to falsify the pastor's assertion, the pastor's comment has no meaning. And IF it is such evidence, and I think it is, then we should react to the counter evidence or counter claim and mourn, and not stand with the pastor's assertion. At least not stand with it TODAY.)
Sunday is an opportunity to sit with these parents in their darkness, not to nervously wring our hands and say that "Well the sun (Son) is shining somewhere." There is no need to be standing in this obvious darkness and try to explain how sunny it is. No need to try to reaffirm our faith and utter platitudes which IF YOU SAID THEM FACE TO FACE TO A PARENT would cause you to likely get punched in the mouth. And you’’d deserve it.
Deus absconditus. Sometimes, it would seem that God is hidden, is silent or has fled. We must acknowledge those times.
One person wrote: “This horrible sorrow and tragedy provides the perfect opportunity to preach Christ and the promise Zephaniah and all of Scripture give that the day is coming when because of the LORD ‘never again will you fear any harm.’”
No, it not the perfect time. Again, preaching to the choir. This sort of thing is not what it means to bear one another’s burdens, or to weep with those who weep.
- There is a time to shut up. This is one of those times.
- There is a time for weeping. This is one of those times.
- There is a time to not to get our theological knickers in a twist. This is one of those times.
- There is a time not to try making lemonade. This is one of those times.
- There is a time to keep silence, to sit in the dark, to acknowledge that TODAY God seems to be absent.
- There is a time to be real, to get real. This is one of those times.
One person wrote: “No one misguided, sick, evil person can take away our joy.”
Now, pretend you’re saying that to a parent! “Dear parent, no one misguided, sick, evil person can take away our joy.” Are you kidding me? They would likely say something like, “You sick, stupid, $#%^&^%$!@##&! of a person! Get out of my sight!!!” Again, you’d deserve it.
I get intent here. But on this Sunday, can we FOR ONCE, JUST NOT TRY to say things that if we said to the people who are really grieving would sound insensitive, outrageous and insulting?
There will come a time when these parents may be able to find balance, peace, perhaps even joy.
But it’s not coming TODAY. So let’s just sit with them in our churches wherever we are and mourn. Let’s NOT blah blah blah about our faith and hope and joy. There will be time for that… LATER!!!! Hello!?! Not now. LATER!
Right now, instead, let’s just shut up and cry, and say, “Yeah, where’s God? Yeah, we get that. We understand. We’re going to sit here with you and we’re going to get through this together.”