Newtown, Conn. Vigil – 12/16/2012

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a youth pastor. Here is the flow for the Newtown, Conn. vigil which I held with my youth group last Sunday. I hope that you all find it helpful in navigating this horrendous loss.

2012-12-16 12.08.12

Newtown, Conn. Vigil – 12/16/2012

Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer – Shane Clayborne:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world, we plead for remission.

For the terror of absence from our beloved, we plead for your comfort.

For the scandalous presence of death in your creation, we plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.

We need to remember the victims instead of focusing on the shooter so that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to light a candle and pray for each of these people who were murdered last Friday.

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Green, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeline Hsu, 6

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnel, 7

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allizon Wyatt, 6

Victoria Soto, 27

Mary Sherlach, 56

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Rachel Davino, 29

God we pray for each of these people and their families. Please guide them and protect them. Help them to grieve and to heal. Guard these children in your care as they are released from us.

This is really screwed up and I don’t really know what to say.

However, I do know that God did not cause this and anyone who tells you he did is full of shit. God never delights or determines destruction; he is a God of love and creation.

God knows the pain of having a son murdered. Jesus too knew of the grief that follows when someone you love is suddenly and unjustly taken away. I’d like to take a moment to look at Matthew 14.

This chapter can be split into three sections which we know fit together because the text makes sure to note that each event happened immediately after each other.

First we see in verses 1-12 that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and a friend of the disciples, has been captured and then murdered for apparently no reason. There is little sign of guilt or explanation on the part of his murderers other than the fact that his death seemed to be part of some twisted party. Here we have a murder which is completely out of the blue; one where the people around John are struck suddenly with the news of his death at the hands of a despot.

Unfortunately, we understand this well, particularly this year. Every day in cities and neighborhoods across America people are murdered simply for the satisfaction of their killer. We need not look any further than the shootings in Aurora, the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Ridgeway, or the events at Newtown. In 2,000 years it seems that evil people have not changed their disposition, merely their methods.

Then in verses 13-21 we see that as soon as Jesus learns of Johns death he attempts to go off by himself. Though the scripture does not say that it was to grieve, I believe that this is a somewhat fair assumption, particularly because we see that Jesus mourns when other people he loves die, like Lazarus. We can see that we too must try to set aside time to process the emotions which arise when we suffer a loss.

However, the great crowds need Jesus to heal and guide them and thus he can find no repose. We then see that the disciples are called to gather the food available which Jesus then blesses and multiplies to ensure no one goes hungry.

This shows us several things: first, we have to acknowledge that even during an intense period of loss, we sometimes may still be forced to act in order to care for others. In this, we are provided an immediate opportunity to counteract the swell of evil by restoring those around us as we work with God toward their reconstitution and reconciliation.

Second, we can see through this that often times when a tragedy strikes, God intends to work through us in order to bless others. God could have simply multiplied the food or maintained the crowds without the disciples, but he chose to include humanity in his plans. Therefore, we see that we can meet tragedy and death head on through the life and healing of God as we submit to him.

Finally, in verses 22-36 we see that after the work of healing and feeding is done, Jesus still goes off alone to pray, he doesn’t neglect the fact that he needs time with God in order to process the loss of John, regardless of how busy he has been. We then have the scene of Jesus walking on the water and saving Peter from drowning. Though this scene tells many things, I believe that in the context of all of chapter 14 the purpose of this section is to highlight the glory of God.

We have to remember, the disciples also suffered a loss and spent the entire day managing crowds so that they could be fed and healed. They were probably exhausted and depressed. Yet in the midst of this, Jesus did something miraculous, he reminded them that God is greater than humans and that he is always here to save us from drowning, whether we believe in him or not. Peter had little faith and yet Jesus made sure to impress upon him that he was cared for and that he was protected.

In all of this we can begin to see that when a murder happens there are two things which must follow: our action to continue to spread the blessings of God’s kingdom and our remembrance that God is glorious and will never forsake us.

Murder is never something that we can take lightly. However, we must remember to not let the grief consume us because that is how evil wins. God goes through the pain with us and even though at times evil may release a furious blow, it will never be victorious. As long as we continually reside in the love and guidance of God we can have a compass for how to navigate the wickedness.

In this, we certainly grieve, and we grieve deeply, but we also continue to trust in God and act in a way that ushers in the love, protection, and peace of His Kingdom.

We’re going to end by blowing out each of the candles as we pray for these people again. Each of their lives was snuffed out unjustly and we cannot do anything to change that. However, as we pray, we can remember the charge we have to guard those around us and to trust in God as he ushers in a justice that frees us from the captivity of fear, aggression, hatred and death.

Finally, I would like to close by reading you all a poem which I wrote about all of this:

Evil is a violent foe, that feeds upon our broken souls.

But resurrected life pronounced, provides a light amidst the clouds.

To children that will weep and mourn, know that evil will too be scorned.

As justice comes in sovereignty, and life’s restored by God to thee.

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