June 15, 2016 The Rev. Dr. Brent Was Orlando Lamentation
Ours is a broken world. We are broken people; all of us in one way or another, some more than others. I think of the man who did this terrible thing… what sort of suffering brings one to do something like this? No one has ever done anything like this because all is well. Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence. And this brokenness, his alienation brought the hand of death upon vulnerable people, and that death descended in a place of sanctuary. Clubs like Pulse are places of respite whose importance straight folks like me can hardly imagine.
Ours is a broken world. We are broken people. Some of you here tonight are not particularly Christian. That’s cool. Like Jesus taught, all are welcome here. In church when we talk about brokenness, the word we use is sin. People get jumpy about that word, fair enough, it has been used as a bludgeon, in particular against the vulnerable, against women and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, but that does not mean that it is not a useful word. When you hear sin, think broken, think being distant from God, distant for the source of light and life, of all the right and good and joyful. Being sinful is a state of being, a condition as much as it is the things we do because we are alienated from God and the things we do that further alienate ourselves from God, the destructive and self-destructive things we all do. It is all Sin and we’ve all got a bad case of it.
Those of you who know me know that I have a rather low opinion of humanity. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for us to help ourselves; our world is too broken and we are too broken, too sinful. And when things like this happen, when one of us takes the lives of 49 others for who they are and who and how they love, and breaks the lives of God alone knows how many others all around the world, my faith that we can dig ourselves out of this hole fades even deeper into black.
But then I see this. We, these broken people gathering on a rainy night in June, on the other side of a continent from the site of an abomination, and we gather, not in spite of this broken world, our broken selves, but because of it. Terrible things happen. They will happen again. But when we face it, when we turn towards it with eyes wide open, together, with our eyes wide open, we have a chance. There is an honesty in grief, an honesty of suffering, and when we stand back together, and face the horrors and brokenness of the world and ourselves, we have a chance.
But that chance is not up to us. Alone, we are helpless. Together, gathered, in community, we’re getting somewhere. But we, humans, we can’t do it alone. We can’t bear the suffering of this world by force of will or gymnastics of the mind and spirit. We need something greater than all of this.
Jesus Christ doesn’t prevent suffering. He won’t keep these terrible things from happening. No amount of prayer will do that, but Jesus Christ does help us bear that suffering. The experience of countless saints, prophets, apostles and martyrs across the ages testify to that. And he is right there, for us, always. “But O, how far have I to go to find Him in whom I have already arrived.”
If you can learn to believe that you are not alone in this, in this morass of suffering and pain; you are not. If you can learn to trust that God, the foundation of the universe, that all of this trends towards life, to beauty and goodness; it does. If you can imagine that God dwelt among us and showed us that all of this, this world, all that is perishing will pass in a blink of an eye and that every life is as precious as a newborn cradled in your arms, that no one can have peace when any are denied peace, that love is the force that gives us meaning… when you can hold all of that, you are saved. Being saved has nothing to do with going to heaven, that’s superstition, not the living God. Being saved is being able to live in this broken world and broken people. Being saved, that is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. And we are saved. Saved not from suffering, not from pain, that is just how it is, (and oh, how much suffering happenings dreading, avoiding suffering). Nothing changes when you are saved, but everything is different. Everything. We are saved from the oblivion. We will all die, each of us here, but being saved by Jesus Christ, death is but a moment, the sum of every life. A loss to those of us who remain, but for the dead, peace.
To those who died in Orlando, victims of society’s hatred and intolerance concentrated in one broken man, may you rest in peace. To all touched by this horror, the wounded and the grieving and the traumatized; may you find peace. And for all of us, two steps removed from this tragedy, may the peace of God in Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit always remind you that all will be well, all will be well, every manner of being will be well. AMEN