1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Two weeks ago I met with Liberty Union High school Superintendent Todd Osborn. He spoke to our Senior Citizens and myself about LU. With him were some of our seniors. They spoke about how many programs are at LU – active and social programs, like sports. Quiet and reflective programs, like chess club.
They were there to reassure us. One of them said, “Nothing like what’s happening at other schools will ever happen here. If there’s a gun threat, our whole community would turn out with their own guns to take out that shooter.”
This week, two students threatened to shoot up the school. They were interviewed, and arrested.
Wake up – wake up! What is happening at other schools, in other communities, is happening right here too – with our own seniors. Our own kids. Our own babies.
“That shooter” is OUR shooter.
“That shooter” is OUR child.
“That shooter” who we were so confident the whole community would rally against, is not some outsider. It not some stranger. Is not some demon dropped into our laps.
That shooter is somebody’s kid. Somebody’s brother or sister. Somebody’s classmate. That kid is our grandchild, our nephew. Our niece. Our FFA member.
“Nothing like that is ever going to happen here” is not true.
We just had a brush with gun violence in our own school.
What are we going to do about it?
You’ve heard the story about a frog sitting in a pot of water. It will sit there, letting the water creep warmer and warmer, until suddenly it realizes the water is TOO warm. But by then, it is too late for the frog to leap out.
Gun violence in our country is warming water. The water has gotten warm enough that its threats are being felt in our own tiny community. How warm will we let it go before we do something?
Before we leap out?
You hear — it is mental health. That is why kids shoot up their schools. If this were the case, wouldn’t all counties have the incredible number of school shootings we have? We’re up to one every few weeks. Think of that!
It is not just mental health.
Why children are shooting up schools is complex. It cannot be simplified to just this or that. It is a combination of isolation, as Superintendent Osborn spoke about. It is a combination of bullying – which is made worse with access to instant social media. It is a combination of youth: death and mortality is a hard concept to just about everyone under age 30. It is a combination of our fractured society where people are numbers and not individual souls. It is more. It is complicated. It is nothing that can be resolved just with medication and saying anyone with depression is a potential violent threat. I struggle with depression.
No, the desire to harm your fellows is complex. Multifaceted.
However, solid evidence shows – although the desires are complex… the ability to actually follow through depends on a large part on access to guns – especially guns designed to kill multiple people in a short time.
The DESIRES are hard to control, predict, and work with. The desires are countered by the programs our teacher and staff and family and friends are implementing. We caught and acted on the voiced desires this time. We did rally together. We did listen. We are a community. The desires to harm are countered by our desire to stand together, to love, to truly listen to one another.
Desires ARE being addressed.
But access is not.
And this is a two-sided coin where we are only polishing one side.
I spoken with kids who have considered shooting up their schools. Their desire came from complex issues at home, at school, at life. Desires are complex. I don’t want to demonize any of our kids. They’re normal kids. Golly – I remember wanting to burn my own school some days thinking it’d get me out of a test. That desire is there. And when we’re young, desires are often very, very poorly thought out.
But the ability to follow through on that desire? The access to military style weapons?
I don’t know about our LU case, but in the case of those I’ve spoke with, the lack of easy access to guns stopped the horror. All the hoops and procedures needed to buy the guns they’d need, and the ammo, was too much. It would take time. It would take money. It would take someone to drive them. These teens’ impulsive desire faded as they aged, as family and friends and teachers and students built relationships with them. As they passed out of high school and out of the insanity that is called the hormones of being a teen.
Desires are complex.
And we’re addressing them.
But not access; and not our relationship with guns.
I’ve spoken with you all before about guns. You know I don’t think guns are evil, but are a tool. Like fire. Fire is neither good or bad. It is useful, and harmful, depending on who uses it and if they’re trained to use it and how they use it. You know I don’t think guns should be outright banned. We use them, especially in rural life.
The issue is we then, and now, are so reluctant to change our relationship with guns. Then, I said we’d offer thoughts and prayers… be outraged… but nothing would happen. I showed how already the world was moving on – publishing news on those murdered at the Jason Aldeen concert on the same page as advertisements for guns.
The children of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are leading a charge to change this. To change businesses when the law is too stalemated to change. To change how we relate with guns – to not host gun blessings in churches and to not worship guns.
We live by Jesus the Christ – not the Second Amendment.
We live by the Prince of Peace – not the idol called MY GUN.
So I dare you.
I dare you to cleanse our temple.
Jesus strode into the temple in Jerusalem and saw business as usual. Everything needed to run the temple was occurring – people were buying sacrifices, changing their foreign money for local money – doing normal life preparing for Passover.
We’re here. Doing normal life, preparing for Easter – which occurs in Passover. We’re doing everything we need for the traditions of our religion. We’re planning Easter eggs hunts and family dinners.
And Jesus strides in and is infuriated.
Infuriated – not because we’re celebrating. Jesus celebrates the Passover.
Infuriated – because dedication to God had been replaced by idolatry. The Temple and its festivals were not God. As Jesus said, there will be a time when you worship God neither here nor there – for we worship God wherever we are. God is not contained by a building. Jesus wanted them to know the Temple would be destroyed, but our access to God would not be.
Has our dedication to God been replaced by idolatry? How can we celebrate new life, cute bunnies and chicks, and spring colors while ignoring the snuffing of life, the little cold hands who used to cradle bunnies and chicks, and the spring flowers laid on fresh graves?
Jesus dared people to over throw their system, their government, even their own church, to get back to following God and God’s way.
Jesus dares us to do the same. To demand change. To enact change. To be change – even if we get the ire of our systems, our government, or our own churches.
Whatever is stopping you from following God is an idol. It replaces God.
Whenever an object is more important to you than the love of others – that object is an idol.
Whenever a human law is more important to you than God’s law to love God and love your neighbor – that human law is an idol.
We have a stumbling block. Something foolish. Something stupid. Something that makes no sense. It’s called a crucified savior.
A savior who loved others so much, he was willing to lay aside his angels, his sword, his gun, and die for others without a weapon or even a spoken defense.
A savior who loved God so much, he was willing to wholly submit to God’s message of inclusive, love, and radical earth-changing shift in priorities.
A savior who taught us that if we destroy our systems, our temple, our laws, our devotion to guns… even if we’ve spent our whole lives defending these things… That savior will resurrect us. That savior will forgive us. That savior will guide us. That savior will lead us. That savior will, and does now, and always will, love us.
Saint Michael’s, we almost had a Sandy Hook. A Rancho Tehama Elementary. An Umpqua College. A Virginia Tech.
We don’t because people listened to their youth and responded. Let us keep listening. Keep responding. Keep working together.
I dare you to repent, to turn back to God, to release idolatry, and to cleanse the sin of gun-worship in the USA.
I dare you to write to your politicians.
I dare you to speak with your family and friends.
I dare you to speak with your feet at rallies.
I dare you to speak with your money, and where you choose to shop.
I dare you to speak with your youths. Listen to them. Ask them about how they feel. Ask them for their guidance. For “out of the mouth of babes,” no?
I dare you to pray.
I dare you to act.
I dare you to love.
Love as Jesus loved.
What would Jesus do?
Tossing over tables, chasing people with whips, making a scene, and being political are within the realms of possibility.
So too is being crucified, scorned, mocked, arrested and beaten.
So too is living into the Reign of God now, and being resurrected, and given new, ever refreshing, ever fulfilling life.
What would Jesus do?
I dare you to do it.