We gather this morning in the aftermath of a national tragedy: the killing of 28 people—20 of them children—at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Like you, I am still in the process of sorting out all my emotional responses to this horrifying incident. In times like this, we all come together seeking not so much answers as a community in which to make sense of the questions.
Why do we as a society tolerate these massacres in increasing numbers? And what are we, as people of faith, to do? As a way into answering that question, I turn to this morning’s Gospel passage, the account of John the Baptist addressing the crowds who are coming to him out of some kind of personal and spiritual and social desperation. What does he say to them? “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” You don’t have to be a New Testament scholar or an ethicist or a moral philosopher to understand what John is saying here. He’s saying: it’s not that complicated. You already knew the answer when you asked the question. We’re asked to live mutually and honorably and compassionately for the well-being of all.
And that leads me to say, on behalf of this faith community at least: enough is enough. As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand for and with the victims of gun violence and to work to end it. The massacre of these 28 people in Connecticut is, for me at least, the last straw. And I believe it is for you. Enough is enough. The Christian community—indeed the entire American faith community—can no longer tolerate this persistent and escalating gun violence directed against our people. Enough is enough.
For a variety of reasons our political culture has been unwilling and unable to address the question of gun control, but now it is time that you and I, as followers of Jesus, help them to do that. Our political leaders need to know that there is a group of people in America who will serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby, who will stand together with our leaders and support them as they act to take assault weapons off the streets. As followers of Jesus, we are led by one who died at the hand of human violence on the cross. We know something about innocent suffering. And we know our job is to heal it and stop it wherever we can.
Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby. I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle, but I can no longer justify a society that allows concealed handguns in schools and on the streets or that allows people other than military and police to buy assault weapons or that lets people get around existing gun laws by selling weapons to people without background checks at gun shows. As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. The cross is the sign and the seal of that obligation. And we know both from faith and experience that the cross is mightier than the gun. The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.
Let us rededicate ourselves today as agents of Jesus’ love and justice and healing in the world. Let us pray for the children and adults who died on Friday. Let us pray for the parents and the surviving children and the pain they continue to endure. Let us pray for the shooter and the miasma of sickness and pain he suffered. Let us pray for the mentally ill and their families, and let us help those families more effectively cope with their sickest members. And let us pray for ourselves, that we may have faithful courage to act, so that the murderous violence done on Friday may never be repeated, and that all God’s children may live lives of wholeness and blessing and peace. Amen.