From The Rev. Linda Huggard
St. John the Evangelist, Stockton
We recently received a note from Bishop David asking each church in the Diocese to hold a service of Lamentation on March 14, to mark one month since the tragic school shooting in Florida and to participate in community protests on that day.
In 2014, in response to a similar mass shooting in Isla Vista, Ca., St Michael’s Episcopal church of that city created a liturgy they called Together in Sorrow. Its available on line and I encourage you to look for it, but I wanted to share with you a scripture reading from that service and a prayer.
A Reading from the Book of Job (2:11-13)
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these
troubles that had come upon him, each of them
set out from his home…They met together to go
and console and comfort Job. When they saw him
from a distance, they did not recognize him, and
they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore
their robes and threw dust in the air upon their
heads. they sat with him on the ground seven
days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word
to him, for they saw that his suffering was very
Our suffering now is also great. Added to that is our frustration that these things keep happening and we are at a loss to know how to grieve and we feel that the offering of prayer seems too little. Nothing seems to change. We feel helpless. But notice what Job’s friends did. They sat with him and no-one spoke, a silent vigil, if you will. But also, “they raised their voices and wept aloud, tore their robes and threw dust in the air”. Surely those around them noticed this loud and raucous assembly!
I often remark in preaching that there are no coincidences in the placement of Sunday readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. This Sunday, our Episcopal Visitation, was also Lent Three and the Gospel was John 2:13-22, Jesus’ turning over the tables in the temple.
Bishop David preached on this rare instance of Jesus showing anger, righteous anger at what he perceived to be a horrible misuse of a place of holiness. How much greater anger can we imagine Jesus showing at the things we do to one another, this terrible slaughter of our children.
We can pray, and hold one-another close in silent vigil, and solemn singing. But we must also raise our voices and weep aloud to God, and to those who can help us to do something more. We must turn over the tables of those making money on the lives of our people.
The prayer they prayed at Isla Vista that day was:
We remember the children and staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut almost two years ago, and the thousands of others who are victims of gun violence. Forgive our culture of violence. Teach us a better way. Give us the will and the power to change. Amen.
So many have died since those words were spoken.
According to the CDC, on average, 96 people are killed with guns in the US everyday (7 are children and teens).
Teach us a better way. Give us the will and the power to change. Amen.