painting of medieval church in summer

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The main topic of reflection this morning was the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. One of us is from Texas. One of us has family in Dayton. It always feels close to home to me, but this was perhaps even closer than usual.

They came up in thinking about the ancient world and its violence, in the morning’s thoughts about Jonathan’s covenant with the future king David. They came up in the prayers of the people in worship, after the day’s pastor had gotten us thinking about hope and about the mysterious and powerful gift of the Holy Spirit who, like one of those special helpful dinner guests who stays to help clean up and put the food away, stays with us after the initial earthly life of Jesus is over to help do the work that remains, and who inspires us to pray, and who prays for us. They came up in the class after fellowship, where the agenda is, generally speaking, the challenges of living as a Christian in today’s world.

“We could use a public health ‘harm reduction model’ approach to this problem. Closing loopholes, licensing, training, try something, see what works, try something else …” “That would be if we wanted to make public policy rationally.” One of the members of the class had recently read Dying of Whiteness, which seemed apropos. We talked about denial, and how we’d seen it ruin people’s lives.

And we brought up the idea that people tell themselves stories – to make sense out of their situations, to give themselves a role, to understand the meaning of their lives, to feel important or heroic or effectual. And then make that into a script, and then act it out.

So, which story will we tell ourselves over and over and over and over … ?

It’s a big choice, and a consequential one. The consequences are not just for ourselves, but for the others we cast into our story – as props, or as part of the scenery, or as the evil villains we are fighting for our way of life. The others we bump into, or crash into, as we act our way through our world according to whatever script we’ve cast ourselves in have to suffer the consequences of the stories we choose along with us.

I would like just to be able to say that “the Christian story” is the one to choose.

But there’s more than one “Christian story.” Even there, our world gives us several options, from “Onward, Christian Solidiers” to “Live Into Hope” and everything in between.

So maybe I have to say … choose the one that’s about life.

If the stories we choose make us who we are – and they seem to – then let’s choose the ones that make us life-givers, and not death-dealers.

It would just be so much better for everyone, all the way around.

Flemish Baroque peasants doing summer work in a field with a church in the background
“Summer” – Pieter Brueghel the Younger
Live and let live, with enthusiasm

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