In the mid-1980’s, I would drive from Austin TX, where I taught at the Episcopal Seminary, to St. Philip’s Church in Uvalde TX. I would do this once a month to attend a gathering of local clergy, Episcopal and otherwise. I came to know the drive rather well. It took about three hours and given central and west Texas, it was almost invariably hot. And I should add, dusty…and dry.
I retired from that Seminary in 2005 and confess that I have not given Uvalde much thought in more recent times. Until yesterday.
Someone dear to me wrote, “How do we keep existing in a world like this?” Yes, that is the question, isn’t it? How do we keep going? How many children must be sacrificed to reach the necessary boundary, the prescribed total? And when that total is reached, and it likely won’t be soon, then what will come next? And who will decide?
Long ago, the German poet Bertolt Brecht asked, “In the dark time, will there also be singing?” “Yes,” he answered, “there will be singing, about the dark times.”
We have such songs in the Psalms of lament. I’m particularly mindful of the psalm of lament which formed the question Jesus asked from the cross,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer *
By night as well, but I find no rest.
Yes, there truly is a sense of forsakenness. I feel it as doubtless you do. Martin Luther experienced what he called “Deus Absconditus,” the God who is hidden. So it seems for the 19 children and 2 adults murdered in Uvalde yesterday. It is so tempting to think that God is indeed absent, but we simply cannot dwell there. We dare not drink of that stream. Drinking of that water will poison us.
There are no psalms that testify to the sorrows of gun violence. There is, however, legislation that could testify to our sorrows and our anger. But as before, who will decide? Perhaps, if everyone has a gun, then an unrestrained and universal fear will seize us all and that will pass for peace.
The Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and a graduate of the Seminary where I served, has asked, “In your prayers, make room for the children of Uvalde—all of them, and of all ages—and pray for all victims of violence that the Peace of Christ will be known and welcome.”
Some weeks ago, in a sermon, I proposed the declaration, “Hallelujah Anyway,” citing Kenneth Patchen as the one first to make this proclamation. “Hallelujah Anyway!” It’s very difficult to say that just now, though I’m hopeful that it’s virtues will return, and soon.
In the meantime, be sorrowful and angry. It will be good for your soul. And be hopeful alongside. Forsake despair. Despair is too long a road.
On the wall next to my desk, I have an original print by a woman named Mae Rockland. In the center is the outline of a child, imposed upon what appear to be flames, which in turn are imposed upon what is a darker field of people marching. The print is titled, “What shall we tell the children?” Mae Rockland, the print maker, was a Jew. The scene depicted is a concentration camp. Although this print is over 50 years old, yet, on this morning, it asks a timely question.
So, dear friends, keep going. Say your prayers. Work for change. Rest in God, no matter what.