What we bring to tragedy.

On Sunday, I was preaching at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Bristol, CT.  Last summer, the congregation extended an invitation for me to come and preach.  Suddenly, the events of last friday in Newtown, Connecticut forced me to abandon my initial plans for the sermon.  In place of the joy of the season of Advent, we were looking deeply into the face of grief, horror and questions.

I chose to explore the range of emotions, the reality of our place inbetween Good Friday and Easter.  But, when the children came to the altar with their parents for Holy Communion, I found myself laying a hand on them and blessing them.  "May Jesus love and care for you."  It was at that moment, that everything came to the forefront of my soul.  It was the most emotional part of the day for me.

In the congregation's fellowship hall following worship, we gathered for a meal and discussion.  A member of the church council had eagerly invited the local press to send a reporter.  Due to a scheduling conflict, she arrived at the conclusion of the meal.  But, I did sit down for an interview with reporter Erica Schmidt, on the left in the photo below. She is pictured with the paper's photographer, whose name I did not catch.

After a few basic questions, she thoughtfully asked me, "What's your response to people when they say, 'How could God cause," she then caught herself and rephrased, "How could God allow this to happen."  

I could tell she was a thoughtful person, and actually quite interested in the question herself.  In other words, she was not simply a reporter doing a job, she was also a human being - a person with a curiosity, a desire to explore significant questions about the nature of God, evil, faith.  

What followed was a conversation, she was taking notes, thinking, responding.  We were engaged in an exploration of some of the most difficult questions we face as people of God.  The results of our conversation became a focus of her article in the Monday edition of the The Bristol Press.  You can read it here.

The article is a reflection of what we as Lutheran christians can bring to the public square, the public conversation about faith and life and death and good and evil.  While some extremist can capture the airwaves with absurd statements and trivializations of profound questions, we can bring an engaged conversation.  "I think God's heart is broken" is a more realistic and honest statement.  Many people understand that phrase in the aftermath of Newtown.  They also want to discuss it more thoroughly and thoughtfully.  This is good.  We lutherans live in the muddled middle, we live in the tension, we live in paradox.  Increasingly, this is the place where most people live.

This is especially true for younger people, but it is not exclusively the purview of a new generation.  We are all living in a world that no longer responds to easy answers, because we know that even the questions are challenging.  Why would we expect the answers to be simple.

I was heartened by Erica, both as a reporter and as a person wondering about significant questions in a challenging time.


P.S.  I'm told that the article in print form had many photographs from the morning at St. Andrew in Bristol. Therefore, maybe Erica's reporting of the theology of the cross got more exposure than a simple page 39 footnote.