God, we are walking into the dusty path of Lent we realize that we are entering into a world of the missing.
The parents, the children, the aunts and uncles, the neighbors and friends and mentors.
God we have lost 500,000 people.
We have lost them. They slipped through our fingers of selfishness and greed and individualism.
We have lost them, like coins scattered upon the ground, they slipped through our finger–a treasure sunk into the ocean, never to be recovered.
We left our fellow sheep upon the rocks, and didn’t protect each other from the lions and the snakes.
We have forgotten that we are herd animals.
God, we no longer just taste ashes on our tongue. We are consuming them daily–in the news of black and brown people’s continued suffering under racist structures, in the habitual “forgetting” of people with disabilities and their extra isolation and danger in this time of contagion, in the news day after day after day of new infections and new deaths, in the cry of an entire state left in the cold for profit.
God I am afraid I am getting used to the taste of ashes.
I’m becoming bitter like Mara, convinced that normal wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and yet longing to go to a time where I didn’t know death as intimately as I do now.
I feel lost without those 500,000 people.
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
And I know that each of us are grieving in our own way.
And when things implode, and my kids are frustrated beyond my comprehension, or little annoyances seem to take over the day, or it’s hard to get going in the world. I remind myself that we are all living with ashes.
Gather your Sheep, Good Shepherd.
Coax us, tempt us and hook us into the herd.
Tell me its ok if I am a Mara today. It’s ok that I feel too much, and want too much and still somehow dare to dream of a different way.
Remind us that you know each of the 500,000 by name. We have lost them, you promise they will be found. Like coins or sheep, precious and beloved treasures of God.
And my job is to keep walking, to keep finding the rest of my herd, to love those who are lost and to love those who are found.
Help me to keep walking the road to Jerusalem with 500,000 ashes on my tongue I pray.
Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
God, I don’t have enough tears for 400,000. If I cried for forty days and forty nights, it wouldn’t be enough.
So instead I’ll light the candle–and watch the flame gasping for breath.
And when I blow it out, I’ll bathe my face in the smoke. I taste ashes on my tongue.
Grief is never enough. The lives cut short, every single one of them, is a tragedy.
Anger rises, and I let it wash and let it go, because this anger is sadness in disguise.
I breathe in, and out, and feel the prickles of oxygen that others can no longer breathe.
God I don’t have enough tears for 400,000 people.
But you do. Mourn with me please I pray. Every tear for one of your beloved. May they fill the ocean with the salt of sorrow, so that we can never again let people die because they are essential or forgotten.
Mourn with me, I pray.
Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. –Matthew 2:1-12
When the wise men asked Herod where God was, they were not asking an idle or philosophical question. Instead they believed that Christ was present on earth, and were actively seeking his location. Today when we ask where God is, it tends to be a more philosophical question. Where is God when we feel alone? Where is Christ when tragedies happen to children in Connecticut? Where is the Holy Spirit when the catholic (world) church is so divided, and seems to split at the drop of a hat?
First, I don’t have an easy answer to these hard questions. What I do know is that God has a plan, and God’s plan does not include death, tragedy or violence. However, everything is not as good as God is, and God’s plan is not the one we hold primary in our lives (unfortunately). Secondly, if you are angry at God, then do so! God knows what to do with your anger. Did you know that 2/3rds of the Psalms are about being angry at God! (Note how we often assume that the anger is God’s–God is angry at us, or sinners, or other random people–maybe the problem is that we are angry with God and we cannot admit it…(for more on this watch the movie “Saved” see where one girl clocks another with the Bible…)
(Note the girl’s response is the hold the Bible and say “this is not a weapon” i.e. real love)
Life is unfair, and God created us, God allowed us to make choices and sometimes that hurts…
On the other hand, the only way to avoid hurt, is to stop loving, to stop caring about the people in our lives, the wars that don’t effect us and the children we didn’t get a chance to know. Grief, anger, sorrow, despondency, depression, emptiness—all of these feelings legitimize those relationships in our lives. They are real feelings, because the people we mourn were real people, and whether we are mourning the loss of someone through a death or a falling out, those relationships have meaning in our lives, and it is our privilege to feel complex and important feelings about the relationships.
Finally, it is important to remember that anger is energy, and the best thing to do with that anger is to channel it into something. If we (instead of debating guns for instance) focused all the anger and grief that we have from Sandy Hook into helping other children in unfortunate circumstances—those who suffer violence in their neighborhood everyday, or those who are stuck in the foster system with no way our, or those who live in poverty. Think of what we can do. Do you think Martin Luther was angry? How about Martin Luther King Jr. or Elizabeth Cady Stanton? They used those intense feelings appropriately. And our job is the same…to get off the tv, the internet and the office conversations. Remember Fred Rogers aka Mr. Rogers said that whenever a tragedy occurred on the news, his mother would remind him to not just look at the tragedy, but to note the helpers.
How many helpers are there in the world as compared to the sick and abusive? And can we be those helpers to. Where is God in all this? Part of the answer is that he is with us, showing us how to help.!!!!!!!!!!