Present in memory…

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Memories of loved ones are like songs in our soul.  Margaret Wakeley

It is that time if year- the time when memories of loved ones can meet us at every turn. Sometimes they greet us with gentle warmth as natural as the touch of a beloved grandmother or the wise words of a respected mentor. It is often hard to know what stirs these ‘visits’ but when they arrive we pause… to remember.

There are other times when memories are not a surprise and they arrive creating a mix of feelings. I have anticipated memories this week — memories of a day when we were stopped with disbelief as news of the Sandy Hook tragedy began to unfold. No one knew what to say or do. Our hearts were broken for all the loss and the grief that would follow.

Often shock of tragedy transforms into other emotions. I am certain that the Sandy Hook community has experienced every known emotion. Over time people have entered this town – invited to offer their support in various ways. These invitations are not random and have often become sacred as they unfold.

As a way to honor the memory of all who were lost on that day in Sandy Hook and to spread hope for continued healing for all who live in that community today – I share this article with you. Roger Hutchinson was one of the people invited to enter that town in the months to follow – offering his gifts and grace. To inspire and encourage —

One Year Later: How the Painting Table is Helping Newtown Heal

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A cry for innocence…

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Two weeks have passed since our country gasped at the tragic loss of lives, young and old, in Newtown Connecticut. As the days drew closer to Christmas, the challenge to prepare for the celebration of new birth was daunting. We approached Christmas Eve humbly – straining to give thanks for God-among-us as we sang, ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’. Families everywhere held one another with greater intent ~ there has been a renewed understanding of how important it is to treasure our moments with one another. So – in many ways – Christmas came just in time this year. With its arrival time stopped long enough for us to truly see one another and slowed our pace to hold the families and community of Newtown in our thoughts and prayers with more focus.

Two weeks have passed since that horrific day. Christmas Day has past and while many trees are still shining bright we meet this morning to remember another time in history when the unthinkable occurred. On the church calendar for the Episcopal Church, today we pause in prayer and thought in memory of the hundreds of children killed by a King in Jerusalem angered by the news of a newborn child who had come to bring peace and serve justice.

Timely? Maybe – but only in its placement on the calendar. We are always in need of the seasons, warm and peace-filled, as they renew us and give us strength. For the majority of our faith journey is found in the harsh light shone on this world. Today we remember the loss of innocence hundreds of years ago while still grieving the loss so very recent.

Our song continues – ‘O Come, O Come…’

You can find more reflection and prayer below:

One of the more striking contrasts on the Christian calendar is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, three days after the celebration of Christmas. In remembering the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Church jolts us from Christmas joy into a contemplation of the ways in which violence and human brokenness, in spite of Christmas, still enslave the human race.  Today, just as two thousand years ago, the most jolting violence of all is that committed against innocent children.

This year, that jolt came earlier, and much more tangibly, than it normally does.  The murder of 26 innocent victims, many of them children, in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in the waning days of Advent ripped through the joy of Christmas for millions.  As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead.   It offers an opportunity “to awaken us” as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, “to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day” and challenge us “to work toward a different future.” (taken from Episcopal News Service)

Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, innocents lost to the violence of our fallen world. As all things are possible with you, redeem this horror with the immensity of your love, and lead us to somehow love those who are responsible, filling our hearts with a spirit of forgiveness. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen. ( EPISCOPAL GENERATIONS )

A mother’s heart…

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It is Wednesday evening. Less than a week before Christmas. Many groups gathering to celebrate find their conversation drawn to the families and community in Newtown CT. Our hearts continue to ache for this tear in the fabric of our common life. Tragedy so often wakes us to our connection to one another and for a period of time we move through our own days aware that we are not alone.

As we prepare to celebrate the ‘birth’ of a baby so long ago, we all have a sense of what a ‘mother’s heart’ can feel like. This year that feeling is more poignant for we are grieving our loss while welcoming new life. Below I share a reflection offered weekly by Bishop Porter Taylor in the Diocese of Western North Carolina. May it offer insight and comfort…

Reflection on Newtown

You hear the news and a part of you breaks because a part of the world is broken.  I heard the news last Friday, but I really didn’t hear it. Something awful happened in Connecticut. I was busy with being the bishop and being a new grandfather and beginning to think about Christmas. I was too distracted with my life to allow the heartbreak of the world to touch me. But it did. It more than touched all of us.

And it opened us up. We wept for children and parents we never met. We wept because pain is pain and grief is grief and loss is loss.  Someone once said, “There are no strangers in sorrow.”  It’s true. Newtown, CT became Everywhere.

There will be time for us as a country to act upon our resolves to change the way we live.  We know we need to do something about too many guns and too little care for our brothers and sisters with mental illness. We know this and we must.

But right now, we need to hold and be held by the God of compassion who opens us up to hold one another.  On Sunday, I found I had to preach about the shootings in Newtown. I remembered that Mary holds her son at the beginning and end of the gospels: the Madonna and the Pieta.  The Incarnation means God is in all of our lives — birth and death; joy and pain.  You cannot have one without the other. There’s a legend that the wood for the crèche is used as the wood for the cross because the Christ who saves us is embedded in all our experiences.  It’s why three days after Christmas we remember The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Savior doesn’t stop tragedy but his love and grace and mercy are present everywhere.

I know Jesus weeps with the parents and people of Newtown just as I know he embraces into his arms of everlasting life the children and adults who were killed. Only his love is strong enough and wide enough to hold all of this.  I hope our belief in him carries us through to a new vision of how he calls us to live together.  We don’t merely need new laws; we need bigger hearts and a wider sense of communion.  We need the Savior of the world to be born again and to make us new.

Since Saturday, my prayer has simply been “Christ have mercy.”  His mercy is the only force strong enough and deep enough and wide enough to bind us together in peace. Now more than ever we pray the prayer of Advent, “Come Lord Jesus.”

+Porter