Sermon By Rev Joel Crouse
Jesus prays: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one.” What can it mean for us all to be one? When this week, we watched with horror as an 18-year-old gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon stormed into an elementary school and killed 19 children and two teachers? When parents waited for word their sons and daughter had survived a place where they should have been safe? When doctors at University Hospital in San Antonia prepared for the young patients they hoped would not come, and then when all was too quiet, for the young patients they desperately wanted to come to them, so that they might save them? When we watched politicians say that he acted alone, when of course, we all know that behind that gunman is a gun lobby and gun companies and other political leaders in the pockets of both? What word of God on earth can ease the pain of those parents, and in our own hearts? What unity might we find against a cause that is so heartless and seems so hopeless? And can we rest so easy across the border? Can we say that our society is more united than in the past – as we also approach the first-year anniversary of a Sunday evening when a 20-year-old drive his pick-up truck into an innocent family waiting at a crosswalk, because of the God they prayed to? When in Nova Scotia, an inquiry continues into a rampage that killed 22 people in the small town of Portapique, an anniversary just passed? What word of God can ease the pain of those who remember them this week? What unity might give them comfort? I do not know. On this week, it is not so much the words that Jesus says in the gospel that sit with me. But the words he spoke while dying, murdered, and innocent, on the cross: Forgive them, God; they know not what they do. But do we not know? What part have we all played in our world today? Are we truly just innocent attendants at the graveside, weeping for tragedy of that other problem, over there? I guess that is a question only we can answer. A question and an answer between us and God. Every morning this week, my Twitter feed was full of the faces of the children in Texas, who went to school and never came home. I didn’t want to see them; I wanted to click away, to watch the trailer for Top Gun, to avoid seeing. But they kept coming back, demanding to be seen. And so, I scrolled through their faces, all precious, all full of potential. What word of God can ease my pain? Shall I accept forgiveness for my humanness, requested by Jesus on my behalf as he died at human hands? Shall I accept responsibility for being a member of a species that inflicts such careless atrocities on one another – not just in the actual act of pulling a trigger, but in the long path strewn with greed and power for their own sakes that gets us there? How can the gospel rise up against such tragedy - small acts of kindness like a butterfly’s wings flapping against a great storm? Sometimes it is hard to find the words of God that can bring comfort and ease. Because sometimes the responsibility to bring comfort lies with our human actions, in the same way that the pain we cause lies with human hands. “Thoughts and prayers,” we say. And for what? As cover, not as call to action. Thinking and praying, while the world divides and little children die, and families of a faith are not safe crossing the street? So let us turn, once again, to the prayer that Jesus makes on our behalf in the gospel? God, Jesus says, may they hear the word of God – the grace of the gospel – so that they may all be one. The glory you have given me, I give to them, so that they may be one. As you have loved me, I have loved them, that they will love one another. What is the gospel if not a hope for a united world? Not in the name we give ourselves, or in the faiths we choose, but in the mission we follow, the call we hear. Where we grieve every lost child as our own; where we reach out to embrace every wayward soul; where we make space for every stranger. So Jesus, in his prayer, returns each time to this theme: let them hear the gospel and be as one. Let them see the glory of God – the wonder and mystery of the world – and be as one. Let them love, as one. What will we do – in our homes, at work, in our communities, on the bus, at the grocery story, at school, while visiting a friend, or caring for family? God hears the prayer of Jesus on our behalf. But how will we, in our humanness, answer? Amen.