Monday, December 17, 2012

Praying about Sandy Hook

This morning I continue to pray about what happened in Sandy Hook. It was so shocking and awful that I have had to 'pray without ceasing' to rise above the material picture into the sunlight of peace and the conviction of ever-present good. It is a normal human response to immediately reach out and gather our own little ones close, to thank God that they are with us safe and sound, and to pour out compassion for those families affected by this tragedy.

As I pray about how to respond I am reminded of Jesus being confronted with the picture of an insane man roaming around a grave yard, moaning and weeping. That man had turned violent and the authorities had even been forced to put chains on him. But in his inconsolable grief he broke those and continued to threaten anyone who came near. This did not stop Jesus from reaching out to this man with great compassion and tender mercy.

Jesus asks him for his name. Perhaps he is helping him recall who he really is, his true identity. The man's response is heart breaking. I am Legion, for the demons are many. Some Bible commentaries suggest he had been the captain of a troop sent into battle from which he was the only survivor. His guilt had driven him mad. Whatever was behind his actions, he was haunted by the demons of his past and unable to leave the place where the dead were buried. He could find no way to get past the tragic events, leave them behind, and go on.

The Bible account takes a strange turn when the man begs Jesus to cast out these demonic thoughts, letting them possess a flock of swine grazing on a nearby hillside. Jesus gives his permission for the 'demons' to depart but he does not direct them to the swine. The swine panic and stampede over the cliffs to their death. The swineherds, responsible for them, run to town and blame this tragedy on the man. It is hard to think that he needed to see physical evidence that the demons were gone before he could begin to let go and heal.

All we know is that when everyone arrives to see what has happened, they find the man, sitting with Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. I think this is what I was meant to ponder, how the Christ came to this man when no one else could help him, reminded him who he really was, calmed the guilt and shame that lead to violent actions against the innocent. I know I will be more alert to what is going on around me, more open to the one crying out for help or silently suffering some inner pain. I will not let an opportunity pass where I can help someone remember who they are as the beloved child of God, not matter how far they believe they have fallen or how desperate they are for forgiveness.

Mrs. Eddy describes it as 'earth's troubled angry sea', the violence of winds and waves that threaten to destroy.(hymn 253) But Jesus walked right over those seas, coming to those who were crying out for help and salvation. We can all see that Christ coming to us to tenderly divinely talk, to calm the storm and waves of fear and grief.

Be tender hearted to all around you today. Do not turn away when you can extend a helping hand, a word of comfort, a hug or smile. Good is not helpless, Love is present. Send a loving thought to those dealing with this event. We are all a part of that community. We can cast out the evil while saving all that is pure and innocent and good. And we need to start within our own heart.

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