This was one unforgettable week in America. If ever we needed comfort, understanding, and direction from power greater than ourselves, this was that week.
Writing on the day after 19 children and 2 of their teachers were butchered in Uvalde, Texas — not just murdered but cut down with repeated fire from an assault rifle — Heather Cox Richardson spoke for many of us. “I have been coming back to this” she wrote:
How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?
This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself.
How indeed have we arrived at a place where one political party, representing a shrinking minority of our fellow citizens, acts as if it has the right to dictate through force, if necessary, how the rest of us will live…or not live, as the case may be.
Today, we arrived at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris, seeking answers. Interim Dean Timothy Safford gave an emotion-filled sermon full of question, doubt, love, and grace. One of his questions, like that of Dr. Richardson, was how one group of politicians could make the argument on today’s talk shows to suggest that it was constitutional — indeed normal and essential for our way of life — for someone to be able to legally buy an assault rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition before they are legally old enough to buy a beer.
In the cover note to the congregation, Dean Safford wrote:
Is your heart broken? Mine certainly is.
In our opening prayer, we petition God “not to leave us comfortless.” Yes, God, please comfort me, but more importantly, please comfort (if it even possible) every mother and father who lost a child to needless, avoidable violence in Uvalde, Texas.
On this the second anniversary of the senseless and brutal murder of George Floyd, comfort all who experience the daily pain and violence of racism and exclusion. In the horror of Uvalde, we must not forget the evil unleashed in Buffalo, New York, where 10 died to racist violence.
On American Memorial Day, comfort us as we honor those who have died in heroic service while we also grapple with the pain that so many are dying in Ukraine because humanity cannot save itself from ourselves.
Maybe my prayer is, “God, do not abandon us to our foolishness and fallenness.
I am weary and I am sad. But I still come to pray, to hope, to praise, to glimpse glory. I know that you will be here with me to hold me up when I want to sit down, to face me forward when I want to turn away, and lift me up when I fall.
Dean Safford noted that we are in the ten-day period in the church year between the Ascension and Pentecost. In church language, Jesus has “left the planet” and the “Comforter” has not yet arrived. The French translation for the plea “not to leave us comfortless” is not to leave us inconsolable.
It is easy this week to feel inconsolable when contemplating our future as a country and as a people. But no matter how we find the strength, we must stand up, we must face forward.
We simply cannot keep turning away.
May you find the strength to keep working.
More to come…
Another in the series of Observations from… (in this case, Paris).