I am sick of vigils. I have had enough of watching President Obama address the nation after the latest mass shooting, which he has done 15 times during his 7+ years as president. I find the familiar pattern of some politicians offering their thoughts and prayers while not standing up to the gun lobby and not supporting the spread of love, justice and equality in the world exasperating. To quote a colleague Rev. Margaret Weis, “If you are going to say things like, ‘Pray for Orlando,’ but you attend a church where the GLBTQIA community is not 100% welcomed, think about that for a minute. This didn’t just happen in a nightclub. This happened in a gay nightclub – a place of refuge and safety and community.”
How can we offer support and love for the living so there will be far less need to offer thoughts and prayers for the dead? And what do we do when we experience the collective grief that comes with each act of mass violence? What do we do with the gnawing anger that comes from our seeming inability to change? How do we balance our need to find some sort of meaning in such senseless and meaningless acts with the hope we try to hold for the world?
One of the core purposes of a religious community is the search for meaning. Being a part of a community like UUCF means that sometimes we find that meaning on our own through our own practices, and often we do that together. Another core purpose is to come together when we are bewildered, when we can’t understand how human beings can inflict such pain on each other, when we struggle with understanding how some don’t see the inherent worth and dignity at the center of every precious human life.
Today, I sit firmly in the middle of this grief. I am also ashamed at how callous I have grown to the news that there was another mass shooting and how it sunk in much deeper when I heard the astounding number of dead and the location. I am ashamed that there have been so many shootings with so little change since those beautiful and precious children died in Newtown. This community is a vessel for this shame, as it is a vessel for the anger, for the intense pain, for the grief, and it is also a vessel for strength, for resolve, for siblinghood, for healing and for the increasingly important return to hope.
We join together in the hope that we will love and be loved, see and be seen. We take tenuous steps forward hoping that there will be support when the next assault threatens to break our spirit. We reach out to link our arms with those who are suffering, hoping that no matter how much some try to break us apart, we are truly one.
We pause for grief. We connect for courage. We remember the hopes and dreams of those who died, never forgetting the precious gift that each human life is. We gather strength for what continues to need our hope and love, for this is the challenge of our lives, and love must win.