The Feast of the Holy Innocents – In Remembrance of the Children of Sandy Hook Elementary School – The Church of St. Michael & St. George

On Monday, we gathered in this very room with our families and with dressy clothes and candles and a great glorious noise to celebrate the coming of God to dwell among us as a human.  This is the miracle of our faith.  Here we are, four days later, still in the midst of the Christmas season—you can see the flowers and the festive hangings—remembering the slaughter of infants in Bethlehem for the sake of Jesus Christ.  We also remember tonight all innocent children who have been killed throughout time, especially those babes at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  In this world, there is grief in the midst of rejoicing.  Our God is not afraid of our grief, nor does he shrink from our questioning and doubt.

In grief and fear, we have choices about how to respond in our questioning.  As we wonder about power and love and God, we can try to shore up our power and leverage it for other’s fear, which is as close to love as you can get when you want to keep ahold of your power.  We can also try to use our love to leverage power—we can try to legislate love into others’ lives, demanding that they behave lovingly, or else!  Finally, we can try to love without inflicting power, which is easiest when we have none, but possible when we have a lot of it, too.  Let me tell you stories that might illustrate these three approaches for you.

There was a man who wanted to have a lot of power.  In reality, he was not very powerful, people didn’t listen to him the way he thought they should, and this made him very angry.  He was isolated and this made him lonely, and it made him resent the attention that others received when he thought people should be paying attention to him.  To deal with his pain and with his powerlessness, he realized he must silence those who were stealing attention from him.  His loneliness obscured the truth that there is plenty of attention—that is, plenty of love—for us all.  He grasped at the little scraps of power that he had and he threw them as hard and as cruelly as he could at the object of his hatred—those who had love, though they had no power at all.  Babies.  This man’s name was Herod.

Another man, knowing that power alone would not solve the problem, turned to love.  He was certain that if we just loved each other harder, we could solve all the problems.  The real answer, this man, Lawrence Krauss, argued on cnn.com,[1] was to provide better mental health care and gun control.  This scoffer-legislator, a professor at Arizona State, dredged up self-righteous religious commentary to expose the inadequacy of the other side, as he saw it.  Why do people turn to religion, he asked, it is full of halfway love, emasculated love.  For example, our president himself said, “‘let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them. For such belongs to the kingdom of Heaven.’ God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on.” I think he meant to be comforting, but both professor Krauss and me take umbrage with the sort of God who would choose to gather up young children into his kingdom by subjecting them to brutal murder in their first grade classrooms.  Dr. Krauss doesn’t stop there, though, he bolsters his interpretation of the Judeo-Christian God by invoking Mike Huckabee’s recent comment on Fox News, “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”[2]  These statements both enrage Dr. Krauss, and lead him to mourn the situation in which non-religious people find themselves—being told that some all-powerful deity visited judgment on their children because of the state of society.  Angry at the injustice he sees and the inadequacy of this God’s supposed love, Dr. Krauss declares the only solution: jettison the illusory God and take love into our own hands.  We must work tirelessly for policy that provides emotional and communal support for grieving families, and fight for better mental health care and gun control.

God has survived thousands of years of humanity misinterpreting and maligning his name, and he surely does not need a diminutive twenty-six-year-old woman defending his honor.  The God who calls little children home is not the God I know.  He’s not the God whose character is revealed to us in the Bible.  We know the Bible’s stories and the loving, righteous, just nature of our Lord.  He asked the children to come to him unhindered because their parents were embarrassed at their offspring’s exuberance.  He accepted a prostitute’s kisses and care, knowing that she recognized him as God and desired to express with all her being the regret she felt and the love she had for him, her Savior.

A third man happens to have a lot of power in his situation, but chooses not to wield it at all.  He surrenders his options and chooses the hardest thing—to love. In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the heroine’s husband, Count Karenin, a prominent member of the government and a very wealthy man, accepts into his home and lovingly raises the child his wife conceives with her lover, Count Vronsky.  Karenin surely didn’t joyfully call for this child to be created—“oh please, dear wife, be unfaithful.  Be so fully and repeatedly unfaithful that even in your twilight years of fertility, you bring forth a child with another man!”  But once this child has entered his house under less-than-ideal circumstances, Karenin welcomes her warmly, with open arms, and treats her as his own.  Even after Anna dies, and no one is around to hold him accountable for his actions toward the daughter of this extra-marital liaison, Karenin gratefully and gracefully accepts the results of others’ sins, loving both the sinners and the children they affect.

Amen.

One thought on “The Feast of the Holy Innocents – In Remembrance of the Children of Sandy Hook Elementary School – The Church of St. Michael & St. George

  1. Reblogged this on hope of things not seen and commented:

    In the wake of Sandy Hook two years ago, I preached this sermon on the Feast of Holy Innocents. In reading it this year, I can’t help but think of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rafael Ramos, Wenjian Liu, and all those who have been murdered this year because of fear, hatred, and power.

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