Sunday, June 19, 2016

“Hearing God Through the Gunfire”

“Hearing God Through the Gunfire”
Highlands Presbyterian Church
June 19, 2016

Luke 19:41-42
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

John 2:14-16
In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and money changers seated at their tables. So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those selling doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a den of thieves?”

Last Sunday we were awakened to the sounds of Jesus weeping. On this Sunday we must talk about how Christians are called to respond to the horror in Orlando.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

Jesus knew what King Solomon knew…there is a time to weep. Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Jesus knew there was also a time to act. That day when he entered into the temple courts and found the money changers seated at their tables, he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the Temple. He overturned their tables and said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a den of thieves?”

Jesus taught us that at times of the highest injustice weeping alone is not enough. We must also act. Orlando is that time.

The Gospel message is that we who claim to follow Jesus have an obligation to alleviate the suffering of others and to refrain from doing that which causes or contributes to their suffering.

There have been so many occasions for the kind of grief we feel this week. This is a prayer written for Sandy Hook. 27 died there, including 20 very young children. Sandy Hook should be remembered for two things, the children…and for the failure of lawmakers to do anything but offer prayers. That’s why I like this Sandy Hook prayer, which I have altered as a prayer for Orlando.

Let us pray. As Rachel wept for her children in Ramah, we weep for the people of Orlando who were gunned down a week ago. As we raise our lamentations to God, we also pray that God will comfort and console the parents, family and friends of those slain, the first responders who faced an unimaginable and unspeakable scene, and help all of us make sense of the senseless. AMEN

We can never let prayers substitute for action. Following Jesus empowers us to act and to address our culture of gun violence, so attuned to the noise of the gun lobby that it cannot hear the weeping and wailing. After Orlando, we stand to follow Jesus into the Temple. We will join him in overturning the tables and changing that which cries for change in our nation.

Those seated at the tables inside the temples of power are the leaders of the National Rifle Association. 

As a child, I learned gun safety from NRA teachers. The NRA promoted good sportsmanship and hunting ethics. That was then. Now, the NRA is not an organization for hunters and sportsmen. It’s about large gun manufacturers. The NRA protects them by making sure laws permits the sales of the maximum numbers of guns whether the buyer is a threat or not.

The NRA does that by controlling those we elect to public office at all levels and in both parties. They don’t enter the political arena for the purpose of establishing justice and fairness. Their purpose is simply greed.

Having watched for more than 30 years the vile manner in which they control our political system and prevent informed debates about solutions to gun violence, I am persuaded that membership in the NRA is inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus. You simply cannot be both, as you watch hundreds of people die each year in a nation that worships guns more than God.

It’s children shooting one another with loaded guns left lying around the house, it’s gun deaths during domestic violence incidents, it’s suicides facilitated by readily available guns and it’s the kind of mass murder we see too often. In condemning a culture of guns after Orlando, Pope Francis said, we see pain, but do not touch it; we hear weeping, but do not comfort it.”

Why? Because the NRA uses its influence to control the democratic process. The NRA demands, for example, that congress and state legislators not enact laws for safe storage and trigger locks. The NRA opposes limiting the ability of people to buy assault weapons even if they are deemed to be potential terrorists and dangerous enough to not be able to board an airplane.

The NRA creates barriers to the development and sale of so-called smart guns, firearms that include safety features allowing it to be fired only by an authorized user. Smart guns can prevent misuse, accidental shootings, gun thefts, use of the weapon against the owner, and self-harm and accidents causing the deaths of children who happen upon a firearm whose owner left carelessly loaded and available.

The NRA demands that politicians beholden to it stop efforts requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows. The NRA used its influence in Florida to pass legislation punishing doctors who asked patients whether they owned a gun, a question that when answered affirmatively would give doctors an opportunity to discuss safe storage and how to keep guns out of the hands of children.

NRA lobbyists persuaded Congress to outlaw research into gun violence. When the CDC proved statistically that a person carrying a gun for personal safety was 4.5 times more likely to be shot with his own gun, NRA owned members of Congress prohibited the CDC from doing any further gun research.

Those who join the NRA and send them money know how those dollars are used. They buy the loyalty of politicians on both sides of the aisle who are so fearful of the political power of the NRA that they’ll do nothing about the epidemic of mass murder in this nation except Tweet their prayers and condolences while pocketing millions of dollars in campaign contributions meant to buy their votes.

The NRA has made an idol of gun ownership and elevated the 2nd Amendment to the level of scripture. Despite the fact that Wyoming ranks as the fourth highest state for gun violence, one candidate for the state senate in this community believes the Second Amendment is God’s law.

The 2nd Amendment is only 27 words: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The NRA would have you believe that that “well regulated militia,” includes the right of Omar Mateen, Adam Lanza, the San Bernardino shooters, James Holmes, and Robert Lewis Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado Springs among so many…to keep and bear arms regardless of their background, mental stability or level of threat.

Can we hear the still small voice of God over the sound of the gunfire? Will we do more than meekly mourn? King Solomon told us there was a time to mourn and to keep silence but that there was also a time to speak out. That time has come. The time to ignore the NRA is over. To permit them to continue buying off Wyoming politicians while we shed tears, say prayers, attend vigils, and offer condolences is to choose not to follow Jesus.

Get involved. Join an organization like Mothers Demand Action. Let candidates knocking on your door, be they Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians…let them know that if they follow the NRA, they can’t have your precious vote, that as a Christian you want them to do what they can to end the deaths and the suffering.

Now that there has been an agreement in the US Senate to vote on bill prohibiting potential terrorists on the no-fly list to buy guns and to require background checks, call our congressional delegation and let them know that not all of Wyoming agrees to offer prayers and tears and nothing else. Tell them that there are Christians in this state who understand what it means to follow Jesus.

We remember that just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, he weeps over Orlando and speaks to all of us when he says, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! Let us let Jesus know that we do know what makes for peace and we will act. AMEN

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