HOW MANY MORE?
10 Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. 11 Don’t fail to rescue those who are doomed to die. 12Don’t say, “I didn’t know it!” God can read your mind. God watches each of us and knows our thoughts.
(Proverbs 24:10-12a, CEV)
Remembering those who lost their lives in the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:
+Alyssa Alhadeff, 14-years-old. Her mom wrote on Facebook that she was a talented soccer player, a creative writer and had an amazing personality.
+Scott Beigel was 35-years-old. He was a teacher who opened his classroom door to let in more students to hide. A student, Kelsey Friend, told CNN, “If his family is watching this, please know your son or your brother was an amazing person. And I'm alive today because of him.”
+Martin Anguiano, 14-years-old. He was a freshman. His brother shared Instagram photos of them laughing and posing.
+Nicholas Dworet. He was 17-years-old. He had earned an academic scholarship to the University of Indianapolis, and he was going to swim there in the fall.
+Aaron Feis was 37-years-old. He was reportedly shot while he was shielding students from gunfire. He was the assistant football coach.
+Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. Her father wrote on Facebook that he was broken after the shooting. [She was a great person.]
+Chris Hixon was 49-years-old. He was the school's wrestling coach. We are told he died after he raced to the scene of the shooting to help students.
+Fifteen-year-old Luke Hoyer. Luke was a basketball fan. And his cousin told The New York Times he had a huge heart.
+Fourteen-year-old Cara Loughran. She loved the beach, her family says. Her aunt wrote on Facebook, “I beg you to do something. This cannot happen to other people's families.”
+Gina Montalto. She was 14-years-old. Her mom said she brightened any room she entered.
+Joaquin Oliver was 17. He loved to write poetry and play basketball, his friends said.
+Alaina Petty. She was 14-years-old. Her church said it is impossible to sum up all that she was. She was part of a church cleanup crew after Hurricane Irma.
+Meadow Pollack was 18. She was a senior who planned to attend Lynn University in Boca Raton. Her dad said she had, quote, "everything going for her."
+Helena Ramsay. She was 17-years-old. A family member wrote on Facebook that she was relentlessly motivated and brought the best out in all who knew her.
+Alex Schachter was 14. He played the trombone in the marching band. His dad said he was a sweetheart of a kid.
+Carmen Schentrup. She was 16-years-old and was a National Merit Scholar.
We have been here so many times before, haven’t we? A crazed gunman pulls out a deadly weapon and kills as many innocent people as possible. There was the shooting at a Las Vegas concert that killed 59 people just last year. The year before there was the shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 50 people died. Ten years prior there was a shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 33 people. Five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut 28 people died including 20 children between six and seven years old.
After each of these tragedies the response was the same as a Los Angeles Times editorial written shortly after the shooting reminds us, “Already the folks who support gun control…[condemn] the ready availability of firearms in our society. Already the pro-gun folks are pooh-poohing those who think guns are integral to shooting deaths. ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do,’ they like to say. The accurate phrasing should be, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do.’ At an astonishing rate, a depressing rate, a stomach-churning rate. As a society we tend to become particularly shocked — at least for a few minutes — when someone shoots down children and young adults while they’re attending classes in what should be a positive, nurturing and safe environment. But even if we’re shocked, we tolerate it…The Florida shooting too shall pass, as did Columbine, Sandy Hook…and so on — all allowed to fade into the backdrop of American memory without a thing being done. This is us. Until we decide finally, forcefully, effectively, that it is not.”
But maybe not this time, because the survivors, the students who lived through the violent rampage, have decided “finally, forcefully, and effectively,” that enough is enough and are taking a very public stand. Author and minister, Rev. Jim Wallis, recently wrote a piece entitled, “If Our Leaders Won’t Lead, Our Children Will.” He says, “Something is happening with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and, because of them, something is happening to us as a nation…They are turning their grief into action…The students are rejecting the old answers, excuses, and inactivity that enabled our present gun policies. They reject empty explanations for our lack of universal and comprehensive background checks. They know the numbers: The latest poll shows [a high] percentage of the American people support those background checks… [including the majority of gun owners]. Of course, we can [and should] talk about and work to fund more access to mental health care in this country. But these students know that addressing mental health in America doesn’t lessen the need to address the scourge of guns [including assault style rifles that shoot scores of bullets every minute. Wallis continues]…As a Christian, and a believer in prayer, I have been very taken by the message of these students that offering thoughts and prayers in the face of tragedy is just not enough anymore —action is necessary. Deep faith requires action. As has been often said in previous movements for social change, there comes a time to put feet to our prayers.”
So what chance do the students seeking strong common sense gun laws have against a gun lobby that buys politicians with tens of millions of dollars? That remains to be seen, but let us not forget the shepherd boy with a slingshot who persevered over a giant armed with the latest and greatest weapons. The boy of course was David and the giant he killed, Goliath. Let us not forget that it was a young woman, Miriam, who saved the life of her baby brother, Moses, floating him in a basket on the Nile River right into the loving arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. If teenagers like Miriam and David could act courageously to save lives thousands of years ago, then we have hope that the students of Parkland, Florida can galvanize a movement to save lives today and in the future. AMEN.
Written by Rev. Jimmy Only
February 25, 2018
The Congregational Church of Manhasset, New York (UCC)
Most merciful God, we confess that too often we’ve done little to change violent situations in our community, our nation, and our world. Forgive our complacency and inaction. Encourage us to embody your love in the world that violence might decrease and peace increase. Grant us perseverance in the struggle to transform our country and world. Grant us courage when standing for truth is difficult. And grant us determination to stay the course.
Today we remember victims of gun violence everywhere, in the so-called red states and blue states, from America’s schools to America’s cities, from America’s theaters to America’s houses of worship. We remember victims of violence in Columbia and Chechnya, Somalia and Syria. And we remember those suffering as a result of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Bring comfort and healing, bring peace and calm.
Through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace we pray. AMEN.