(Sermon 10/4/15 – World Communion Sunday)
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25:6-8
I was sitting in a local restaurant the other day, working on today’s sermon – or at least, where I thought it was headed at the time. The television on the wall was full of news about the school shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, where, once again, a mentally deranged young man killed and wounded a number of people in order to redress grievances that we don’t even fully understand yet.
These gun-related mass murders happen so often now that they all start to blend together. We can’t even remember the names of all their locations; we confuse the details about the shooter in Sandy Hook with the one in Aurora with the one in Charleston, and soon enough, this one will blend into that mix, too.
While I was sitting in the restaurant, two women and a man were sitting in the booth next to mine. The man blurted out, “Oh great, I see ‘Comrade Obama’ is already using this shooting to call for more gun laws! I’m telling you, what really needs to happen is for someone to take a gun and take *him* out!” At that point, one of his friends shushed him, but he asked, “Why? You worry too much about what other people think.”
As followers of Jesus, we’re called to live in his way of peace. That includes speaking out against the insane amount of gun violence that plagues our society. I believe that as Christians, we have a moral obligation to work to tighten the ridiculously easy access to firearms in this country that make these tragedies all too possible, and all too common. We need tougher laws, and they need to be toughly enforced. People of good will can certainly debate the details of that, but no one can deny that the current situation clearly isn’t working.
But people who say that changing the laws won’t solve the whole problem are right, too. Our society exhibits a terrible devaluation of human life married to a glorification of violence, and as long as that continues, so will tragedies like Oregon. Gun ownership and gun violence are so widespread in our society because we’ve been brainwashed practically from infancy to believe that nothing is ever fully settled as long as there’s still an unused violent option available.
When tragedies like this shooting occur, we wring our hands and wonder where these unstable people would ever get the idea that such actions could ever be justified. We need look no further than the mindset of that gentleman in the restaurant. When our culture produces supposedly normal, sane, people who can, without a hint of shame, publicly advocate the murder of another human being, President or otherwise, that’s evidence of a deep societal sickness.
So there I was, sitting there writing a sermon for World Communion Sunday, a day emphasizing the unity that we have in Christ, and with one another through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. A day emphasizing global Christian unity and a commitment to living together peacefully despite individual differences. The day that we receive our annual Peacemaking Offering. The dissonance between the theme of today’s service and the words coming from the television and the next booth couldn’t have been any sharper.
As Christians, we believe that God’s nature and will is so intensely infused in the life and words of Jesus Christ that we can say that in him, we see and know God in the flesh. If we’re serious about that, we have to take him seriously when he points us to ways of peace and nonviolence. That becomes an inseparable part of our proclaiming the gospel – God’s good news of hope and love for all people. As a matter of faith, and regardless of political affiliation, we have to take a stand against violence in our society – against both the proliferation of the tools that carry it out, and the moral sickness that glorifies or justifies it to begin with.
We’ll never teach the unstable members of our society that gun violence is a terrible option if we don’t first successfully teach it to the supposedly normal people like that bonehead in the restaurant. If his mindset passes for acceptable, supposedly “normal” discourse, why should we ever expect unstable people to think differently?
Working for peace and nonviolence might seem like wishful thinking to some. For anyone professing the Christian faith, however, we don’t have an option. We can’t reject Jesus’ teachings as being unrealistic or unworkable in the “real world,” a world that we profess he created and that he rules over. To the contrary, it’s exactly what we’ve been called to do.
So today, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and World Communion Sunday, let’s all understand that. Let’s all recommit ourselves to do whatever we can to work for peace and nonviolence. Let’s recommit ourselves to do whatever we can to make these kinds of shootings a thing of the past – because I’ve grown hoarse, and sick and tired, of offering up yet more prayers, month after month, for the victims of yet another senseless, avoidable mass murder – and I’ll bet you have, too.