Caught as we are

Porter’s Reflection 10-4-17


Again. We are here again. Las Vegas is now part of the list. There have been 272 shootings this year in our country. We are here again.

And I feel as if we as a nation will just roll the tape. We’ve had these conversations so often we don’t have to think about our response. Meanwhile this shooting won’t be the last in October much less 2017 or the next year or the next.

Elizabeth Sewell once wrote, “It’s not problems we face. Problems have solutions. It’s some deep rooted utter dilemma.”  Yes,  that’s true, but the grace of God is more true. We as a people cannot say, “That’s the way it is” and try to move on. We are better than that and as people of faith we have a deeper calling.  Christians know that our destination is the New Jerusalem—a city with no guns, no shootings, no hatred—just the peace of being one with God and one another and our calling is to move towards that city so that God’s will can be done “on earth as in heaven.”

There are external actions that must take place. Our country must come near to some sanity about guns and have to reach some clarity about why this is such a difficult legislative issue. My guess is that below the arguments about the 2nd Amendment is money.

But there’s a deeper level to this: mercy. While I am not naïve about Washington and the power of lobbyists and the rights under the 2nd Amendment, I am weary of the same conversation we have after every shooting. We need to ask God to make us new.

I thought of a long rambling but wonderful poem by John Ciardi—“Caught as we are.” It ends like this:

Caught as we are in these and our other conditions —

Which include a distaste for the littleness of our motives,
and, therefore, some wish to live toward some reality.

Terrified by realities. Addicted to evasions. Daring, perhaps
once, to look into the mirror and see and not look away.

Beginning again, then, with those who share with us and
with whom we share the sorrows of the common failure.

Fumbling at last to the language of a sympathy
that can describe, and that will be, we are persuaded,
sufficiently joy when we find in one another its idioms.

Caught as we are in these defining conditions —

I wish us the one fact of ourselves that is inexhaustible
and which, therefore, we need not horde nor begrudge.

Let mercy be its name till its name be found.

And wish that to the mercy that is possible because it takes
nothing from us and may, therefore, be given indifferently,
there be joined the mercy that adds us to one another.

We cannot look at those photos of Las Vegas or see those scenes of parents crying over their loss and not have mercy open our hearts.  We must mark that opening because it’s the doorway into finding a new way to community.  If we are to be agents of resurrection, it will be less by twisting arms and more by opening hearts. It will be less by asserting our rightness and more by leading others who disagree into the common land of compassion.  Because if we don’t think that God’s mercy moves the world, why do we follow the Lord? Why do we wear crosses around our necks?

So. Our pattern has been to be upset for a period and then forget and get on with our lives. I suggest you pick one name of the 59 who were killed and pray for that soul and that person’s family every day because it won’t just be for them—it will be for you and it will be for our country. If we do that, maybe God will open our hearts and the world could change.