More than once I have cautioned my now-adult daughters to be careful as they move through the world: “Trouble will find you; it finds us all. Please don’t go looking for it.” What useless advice. The dead in Pittsburgh and Jefferson, KY, Tallahassee and Thousand Oaks were stretching and shopping, dancing and praying. They weren’t looking for trouble. Trouble found them.
My younger daughter is the same age as some of those killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA on Wednesday night. The slain police officer was the same age as a friend who wears the badge. Though this was the fourth “soft shooting” in two weeks, this one clutched at my heart more than the others. Is it because I identify so painfully with the victims? Or maybe it is that the unbearable weight of this inexplicable carnage finally tipped my equilibrium.
The vitriol and violence, the unhinged demeanor of so many in the public eye leave me limp. Unable to form a thought. At a loss for words. Always on the edge of tears.
Two weeks ago I attended the funeral of a friend who died of a catastrophic health event in his wife’s arms. When we saw each other at the funeral, she fell into my arms sobbing, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do now?” It is an excellent question, the cry of a broken heart.
What are we going to do now?
Sunday’s scripture readings are filled with trouble, as well: impoverished widows, economic inequity, natural disasters, theological puzzles. When you are feeling up to it, you might read ahead: 1 Kings 17.8-16, Hebrews 9.24-28, Mark 12.38-44. But if your heart is as heavy as mine, you will cling to the words of the Psalm: “Put not your trust in rulers, in mortals in whom there is no help. The Lord gives justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.” (Psalm 146)
But, as we mull and grieve the ways of the world, life continues to roll on. So, let me highlight a few events and opportunities to focus our attention elsewhere for a moment.
On Saturday afternoon we welcome The Lucky Trikes to our concert series. Our Sunday School children were paid a surprise visit by these musical story tellers last Sunday, and could not get enough. You will be equally enthralled—no matter how old or young you are.
On Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. we host our second Vitality Talk—a fast-paced, information-filled, coffee and donut-fueled conversation about new strategic directions at Ascension. This month we welcome staff members of The Night Ministry to describe their life-changing, heart-breaking ministry with Chicago’s homeless youth and adults.
After worship we invite you to stay for a Town Hall Meeting and Lunch. Our financial leaders will describe the proposed 2019 ministry budget and invite you into the exciting opportunities ahead of us.
We continue to Shine! The kitchen awaits the arrival of countertops, sinks and appliances. The door project is almost completed—trim will be painted as the weather allows; new locks and keys are being cut.
And on Monday, our nation marks Veterans Day and the centenary of the First World War. My grandfather was stationed in France at the end of that war, fresh off the farm and naïve about the wounding of war. He once reflected on that grim tour of duty: “I’ve never seen people so hungry in my life.”
What are we going to do now?
Please join us Sunday morning. In dark and dangerous days like these, we need to be together, reminding one another that the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down and provides for the needs of the poor. And don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them.
Pastor JoAnn Post