A word from Pastor Lex Liberatore on gun violence
Psalm 13 begins with these words: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” On the heels of yet another mass shooting by a young man with an assault weapon, I’m soul-sick and I’m angry. Not at God. God is doing fine. I’m mad at God’s creatures, specifically the ones who’ve made a career in elected office. These people make we want to scream.
And here comes another parade of platitudes. We’re about to be serenaded by everyone from the Texas governor to bloggers and pundits. One colleague sums up my feelings, “We don’t need your thoughts and prayers –we, the church, will take care of that on (your) behalf. We need (you) to lead.” Making hard choices because they serve the needs of all the people in their district - this isn’t what politicians do. Not anymore. It’s pay to play, and people in places like Buffalo and Uvalde don’t have enough cash for elected officials to care.
I remember a phone call I received just prior to the 2020 election. One of those professional telemarketers asked me what I felt was the most important issue facing this country. “Honor” was my answer. They didn’t know what to do with that response, and I wasn’t surprised. Honor hasn’t been a priority for elected officials for a good long time now. Especially when it comes to the easy access to weapons, like those used in Buffalo, Uvalde, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida and other locations made notorious because some person could obtain a gun that can kill dozens in minutes. We went from the need for a “well-regulated militia” after the Revolutionary War (cited as “the right to bear arms”) to almost anybody being able to buy anything short of a Howitzer. You can even 3-D print ‘em.
How long, O Lord? How long before we DEMAND limits, regulations, licenses, funding to support implementation, and dollars for mental health care and the unanimous public support of elected officials of all stripes to make it happen. Irma Garcia. Jackie Cazares. Amerie Jo Garza. Eva Mireles. Uziyah Garcia. Remember these names. Some of the 21 humans, mostly children aged 9-11, killed in the latest ‘angry young man’ rampage. And what about the Buffalo families? A racially motivated killing. Politicians won’t even touch that issue.
I have great compassion for everyone from the children who were killed, their parents and families, the classmates who survived and their families, teachers and staff, police officers who were shot and their families, and the neighbors who now have to live with the damage that will never go away. Even the shooter and his family. God is with them all. That’s where my thoughts and prayers are directed.
How long, O Lord? How long will we put up with the usual nonsense we will hear from every politico from coast to coast? There’ll be a loud, brief debate. Bills will be written for consideration – but never passed. Hands will be wrung. Platitudes will be uttered. Gun lobbyists will assemble. And most of the same useless politicians will get re-elected in November.
How long, O Lord? Here’s my answer: As long as it takes for “We the People” to DEMAND real, lasting action, in the name of God. Until we refuse to accept any more of their excuses. Jesus turned over the tables in the Temple for less.
Our two churches have an agreement, called a Covenant. I know many of us still don’t understand it. What difference does it make having a Covenant? Does it change anything? I mean - The Rock’s just renting, right?
God wants everyone to be respected, and to share fully and generously in all the good things in life. But the Bible tells from the beginning, things didn’t go so well. Pastor Everett’s been teaching from our ancestor Nehemiah. And how important God’s word was through him. But, without the Great Covenant we wouldn’t have the witness of a Nehemiah, or any of the prophets.
From the time of Noah, God made special agreements with men and women called covenants. These agreements stand on the sacred word of God. God’s word means something, and so should ours. While God’s good at keeping promises, we aren’t so good at keeping ours. God can get pretty mad at our selfish and evil behavior, but God never breaks the agreement. It’s a good lesson.
By the time of Moses, God had added lots of complicated rules to the agreement. God figured maybe extra rules would keep us in-line. Maybe humans we’d actually follow our part of the agreement. But we don’t like rules. So, God cut the rules down to ten. Ten Commandments; ten guidelines to a just and holy life. These Commandments were easier to remember. But humans don’t always do what’s just, and right, and generous. We all know our history; a lot more taking than giving.
So, God sent us Jesus; the Word of God made flesh. He moved into our neighborhoods; taught and lived God’s way with us. And to help us to stay right with God, Jesus cut those ten commands down to just two: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Even then, with Jesus in our lives, we still needed constant reminders that the Word of God; The Great Covenant is more powerful than all the evil in this world. Jesus’ “Way” was simple, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Many things, yes- race among them, divides us from living that love. Because God’s way is our way, Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church and Lake Edge UCC formed our own Covenant; another reminder to us of God’s abiding love for us in the Great Covenant. With God’s help, together, we commit to find common ground and to express the goodness of God’s love. Because we’re two different churches, we’ve gotta work extra hard to live up to our Covenant promises. And what are these promises? “…to practice patience, understanding, trust, and forgiveness… supporting and loving one another as God loves us.” Important words.
This is our sacred agreement in the sight of God. And it doesn’t happen every day in Madison. That’s why it’s so important. And it’s why The Rock is so much more than a renter. In time, if we can both learn to live this covenant, our Covenant, it will change everything! Thanks be to God!