St. Michael’s had on display an exhibit from the organization called Heeding God’s Call. These t-shirts represent lives lost from gun violence. In the year 2013, 201 lives were lost. Please visit the website, and see how you can get involved in getting illegal guns off the street. Please help to stop the violence. Stop the killing.
Memorial to the Lost – Heeding God’s Call
I became aware of “The Memorial to the Lost” back in 2012, when I saw the exhibit in of T-shirts down at Vernon Park. At that time, there were 288 victims of gun violence. As you have seen with your own eye, it IS an impressive visual. A profound visual. A sad visual of lives lost needlessly to gun violence.
As we installed this exhibit last week, a few of us experienced profound feelings of grief and sadness.
Each time I ventured out this past week, I have seen someone taking a walk through the t-shirts, through the names and the dates and the ages. Some going from shirt to shirt shaking their head. Some going from shirt to shirt, in a frenzy, as if in search of someone they knew was there…and then there was one who was led unknowingly to a shirt of a loved one, whom they had no idea they would be seeing. They knew they had died, but didn’t know they would be seeing their shirt.
It has been a week of stories…a week of heartache…a week of remembrance.
Remembrance of a simpler, less violent time.
I had a moment of remembrance of my own, driving down Mt. Airy Avenue, and seeing a man mowing his lawn, with one of those hand held lawn mowers that you push back and forth and side to side. It took me back to a simpler time. A time when we played in the street and on our stoops from sun up to sun down. A simpler time, when an argument was settled in the school yard (not condoning – that is just the way it was). Fights were fair and no guns….no knives. No bullets — just Vaseline. Those were the simple times.
“Can it be that it was all so simpler then, or has time rewritten every line?” Guns were not so easily accessible then, or tell me, were they? Were they?
And yet, today, we have 201 victims of gun violence standing as a witness in our cemetery.
The ages range from 2 years old to 75 years old, with a median of 22.
You can no longer sit on your porch or play on your street in some parts of the city without the threat of being purposely or accidentally shot…even sleeping in your crib is not safe.
So many of our children – our young men are caught in this reality. And it is not just our black brothers and sisters, just yesterday two young white men were found shot from Pottsgrove, members of a football team.
Gun violence is running rampant, with police officers now joining in the scrimmage.
*Parents and friends face prolonged and repeated trauma and nearness of death* (just this past summer, there was s shooting in which someone was shot 6 times in their legs – right around the corner. Parents live in fear…children live in fear…and the sale of illegal guns proliferate the city and the country.
“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperors”
Who is the emperor? Who is getting rich and benefiting off of these gun sales? I was informed by a police officer that I could go to practically any neighborhood and purchase a gun (after an attempted break-in, in my basement). Where does that money go? Is it taxed? Someone is getting rich over these illegal gun sales…while families are getting poorer in spirit from losing a loved one to gun violence.
*A major sector of our society is impacted by hostilities connected to issues of race, gender, sexual orientation. All which stem from issues of privilege – domination – control and entitlement*. Look at Zimmerman!
Look at the 201 victims in our cemetery … “standing their ground”.
We need to be vigilant to “render to God the things that are God’s”…and what belongs to God? We do, and every last person who’s t-shirt bears witness to violence. God is not about violence…our Christian (or whatever belief system we lend ourselves to – not all the t-shirts belong to Christians) communal covenant reminds us that “you shall not kill”… and yet we do.
Some of us have lost our moral fiber.
• We must continue to hold our “emperors” accountable for stricter gun laws…we must advocate banning all assault weapons.
• We must require universal background checks. No one should be able to walk in a store and purchase a weapon as easily as it is to purchase a pack of gum.
• We must continue (or start) to make gun trafficking a federal crime. We must empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers and their entire criminal network from the emperor on down to the neighborhood thug. Snitch, if you must!
But hear this: the “emperor is not the only one accountable. We are accountable as well:
Are we teaching our children the “things that are God’s”? Things like love, compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, patience, our time and talents and stewardship of life and of each other?
Are we teaching each other the sanctity of life?
The Pharisees said to Jesus: “we know you are sincere and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.
The truth is that God, our Creator, is of love. God is of justice, God advocates on our behalf by sending the comforter, the Holy Spirit to help us through these troubling times….amen?
• Help us dear God to be there for one another, to advocate against gun violence, to advocate for better gun control laws…
• Help us dear God to be comforters of loved ones of those standing in our cemetery
• Help us dear God to be there for those who have lost loved ones THIS year: Francis Gibbs – who lost her son, Ronald Gibbs from being shot by a police officer.
For Crystal, who lost her partner Christopher Green…and is angry at God. Help us dear God to understand that this is NOT your will.
For all those who will undoubtedly be “standing their ground” in this fashion next year.
• Help us dear God put an end to all this killing and shooting.
• Help us dear God to know that sometimes time does rewrite every line…but that we have the power to rewrite these present times into better times with each others help. Write your congressperson, make phone calls, and get illegal handguns off the street.
We may never be the way we were…but we have the power to make a better world.
Help us dear God to put our trust in you and give to you what is yours: our lives, consecrated Lord to thee…in service to you and for your glory. Amen
*taken from the website: Heeding God’s Call
Grace, mercy and peace!
Join us this coming Sunday, September 14, 2014 for Rally Sunday! We welcome everyone back from a peaceful summer vacation and enter into our fall season.
We will begin with a pancake breakfast at 9:30 am. We will Fellowship and get to know one another. This is the second Sunday of the Month, which means it is Conversation Sunday! We will, as the Spirit moves you, speak to what the text is saying to you. There is no right or wrong answer…just what the reading says to you in your heart.
This Sunday (which is Holy Cross Day) the readings consist of:
We pray you will join us, as we also bless all who are returning to school; to learn and to be taught. We pray you will join us as we are all blessed as we enter into a new church year.
We pray you will join us as we are all joined together in Spirit and in fellowship.
Pancake Breakfast at 9:30 am
Worship at 11:00 am
Grace, mercy and peace!
This morning’s word, at St. Michael’s Community Meal, was on “Summertime and Sunflower Fields”.
I set the bunch of sunflowers on a table, and the community gathered in the worship/prayer circle around the table. I began by asking the community what the visual of the sunflower meant to them: “happy, sun, ‘summertime’… I then spoke about the events of the past week, particularly the Malaysian plane being shot down, and landing in a field of sunflowers.
…I began by singing “Summertime”, and they surprised me by joining in – just the first verse. I then began to talk about how the living is NOT easy.
…the three babies-unaccounted for until the last minute (295 to 298), the children being turned away at the borders, 4 children being killed on a Gaza beach, rebels and war-mongers……..no, living is NOT easy….searching for the remains of 298 persons in a sunflower field….cannot be easy. Being the parents, and friends of those who perished, cannot be easy. Attending the AIDS conference in the midst of those whose lives were lost, cannot be easy….
….daddy may be rich and momma good-looking, but don’t mean a hill of beans…if you’re not right with your creator.
The living is NOT easy…
…We make living easier by gathering each Saturday, greeting one another, from ALL walks of life…young and old, rich and poor, black and white – and even “Mr. Lee” – who speaks “no english”, but tips his hat at me each week. Mr. Joe, asks for an old candle each week, and when I finally asked him today, if his lights were cut off – he grinned and said: “no, I just would like to have a candle to burn in my room from this church – I can pray with it burning”, We gather and make life “do what it do” for at least two hours….we laugh, we may have a few disagreements, but it is all good…
…and it is true, that “one of these mornings, we’re gonna rise up singing – and we’ll spread our wings and take to the sky”…
…I said some other stuff too….but that is for the rest of tomorrow’s sermon… (come and hear how it ends).
Grace, mercy and peace!