Reflection-Randall Tremba

Randall Tremba
December 23, 2012
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church

Luke 1:26-55
The Holy One has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

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To everything there is a season. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to mourn and a time to laugh.

Last Sunday was a time to mourn. The time to laugh has yet to come. It will. It may be the darkest time of year but the sun will return.It’s now winter. It’s a season of death—the end of a world and the beginning of another. In case you hadn’t noticed, compassion and courage are joining hands.

There’s a time to mourn and a time to laugh. A time for peace and a time for war.

This is not a time for peace. Our hearts are not at peace with the slaughter of innocent children. Now is a time for anger and rage, a time to stand against the forces that deny children their right, their constitutional right to be safe in this country, in their homes and in their schools.

Hatred will not drive out hatred; only love can do that. But it takes more than love. It takes wisdom and courage.

I respect the second amendment and the right to bear arms. My father was a hunter. I served in the Army ROTC. I learned to shoot with the M-1 rifle.

I respect the right to bear arms. But it, like any right, is not absolute. Freedom of speech is also a right but it is not absolute. We do not have the right to yell FIRE in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.

We respect the right to bear arms. But we also have a constitutional right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. The glut of military style weapons in the hands of Americans has put us in grave danger.

The American people are not more mentally ill or more evil than peoples of other nations. We are not the only nation to watch violent movies or play violent games. The only significant difference between our nation and other nations is this: no other nation has near as many high-powered military styled weapons in the hands of its citizens.

Americans are 5% of the world population yet we possess 50% of all the guns. You might say: we have a fetish. And if so, that means we have a spiritual problem. It’s called: idolatry.

On the same day of the Sandy Hook massacre, a crazy man in China attacked 23 children with a knife in a school. All were injured; none killed. There are probably more crazy people in China than in America but they won’t be getting their hands on high-powered guns any time soon.

With every death come sadness, anger and guilt. Last Sunday we mourned. It was not the time for rage. Today is.

And today is also a time to acknowledge guilt, even if it’s the guilt of silent complicity or cowardice in the face of intimidation. As someone said, we are not all guilty but we are all responsible.

And we should all be angry. If you’re not, something’s wrong. Anger is the healthy, normal human response to injustice against yourself or others. Anger and compassion, by the way, are not exclusive. But both need a partner. That partner is wisdom.

What can we do with our anger besides hating, scape-goating or just venting? What can we do?

This past Friday morning at 9:30, Pat Donohoe, Dave Borchard, and Joan Keith rang our church bells 26 times. Our own Betty Ann Snyder has a petition to alert lawmakers about her and other’s intentions when it comes time to vote. Jack and Martha Young are asking friends and family to call lawmakers each day for 26 days.

At our local 7-11 just few days after the shooting, a woman paid for the coffee and donuts of the man behind her in line. She had decided to commit 26 acts of random kindness. That man then paid for the woman behind him and she burst into tears. As it turns out she was on her way to Newtown, CT where her sister is a schoolteacher. Anger can be channeled toward kindness.

Last week the church council of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, Rev. Jim Macdonell’s former congregation in Bethesda, took the following actions:

Approved a letter to all their elected officials requesting a personal meeting on this subject.

Agreed to host a forum for the community to determine how to follow the President's call to "take meaningful actions to reduce gun violence” as well as finding better ways to deal with mental illness.

And resolved to keep in view the long-term systemic problem of violence that requires a moral and spiritual awakening to transfigure this culture.

Those are actions our own church council will soon consider. I will also recommend we read James Atwood’s book: America and its Guns: A Theological Exposé. Don’t be fooled or intimidated. This is first and foremost a moral issue not a political issue.

Within the ongoing, grand story of evolution something keeps calling out, calling out to earth and its earthlings age after age after age. You can become more than you think. You can give birth to a new world of kindness, freedom, justice and peace. It seems to me that today is a good day to say with all your heart: Let it be.

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HYMN 600 “Song of Mary”