Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Horror, Sorrow

I feel a strange need to apologize to any who were offended by my post on housepainting last night. In the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech, I realize it was trivial. But I also had nothing to offer at that point; I was exhausted and unable to cobble together anything of meaning or worth. Here is what I shared this morning with the students in the campus ministry I serve.


Dear Friends,

I suspect we have all been struggling, along with the whole country, to
understand yesterday's shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University. It is my understanding that the University, through
our office of United Religious Work, is planning a memorial service to take
place later this week. I will forward information to you just as soon as
it becomes available.

Some of you have heard me quote John Calvin, who affirmed that the
psalms offer an anatomy of all our human emotions; shock, horror and fear
are no exceptions. I offer here Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city;
it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar,
the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth."
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

And I offer this prayer, a collect for a time of tragedy:

God of compassion,
you watch our ways,
and weave out of terrible happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been shaken by tragedy
with a sense of your present love,
and hold them in faith,
Though they are lost in grief,
may they find you and be comforted;
through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you. Amen.


As is often the case, I found the photo above on Flickr,
uploaded by GarrettB.If you go to that site and type
"Virginia Tech" in the search engine, you will see that
people are uploading photos of friends and loved ones who
died. It is heartbreaking... now the tears come.


Suzer said...

Mags -- no apology is needed. With the overwhelming media attention, it was actually refreshing for me to read about your painting project. :) The psalm and sermon are perfect for today. Thank you.

steve said...

Heartbreaking indeed. May we combat this violence by nurturing love and peace within ourselves. Peace to you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Beautiful picture and words, Mags.

Iris said...


Catherine + said...

And when we are old and little children are brought to us to hear about the olden days, will we be able to tell them anything else but how terrible things happened: Oklahoma City, Ruby Ridge, Waco, 911, wars, terrorism and now Virginia Tech. Why can't I remember any wonderful historic thing that has happened in my lifetime? What will we tell these children of the future?

Catherine + said...

I can answer part of my own question: Women were accepted into the priesthood of a few denominations. A woman became the first female Speaker of the House. A woman became the first Presiding Bishop/Primate in the Anglican Communion. Martin Luther King died to bring equality to all people regardless of race or color. I know there must be more but I cannot think of them with VT on my mind.
Thanks for indulging my wayward thoughts, Mags.

Suzer said...

Catherine's post has spurred me to think of some of the positive in our lives (as I'm feeling very low about all this today). In addition to what Catherine mentioned, what else can we tell our children about what happened during our lifetimes?

The tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

The end of apartheid in South Africa.

The advances of medical science in curing polio, amazing treatments for heart attacks and strokes, cures for some cancers, etc.

The beginning of love and acceptance of God's GLBT children.

Title IX providing more equal opportunities for women.

Affirmative Action which, despite controversy, is an attempt to redress past inequality in education.

Catherine + said...

Thanks for your additions, Suzer. I knew there HAD to be other wonderful and good things...we need to remember those now and always.

Pastor Peters said...

It strikes me that anything could be trivial. When we face tragedy, loss, death and find ourselves confronted with grief and dismay, it seems (and perhaps I'm wrong) that we are reminded (again) to cherish those "trivial" moments.

In our grief, it seems, we remember that these moments are precious. In fact, they are divine. So keep painting!

Magdalene6127 said...

Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate all the sheer love that flowed on the internet/ in the blogosphere this week.

Suz and Catherine, you are right. There is much to celebrate. I heard Richard Dawkins beineg interviewed by Terri Gross not too long ago. She asked why people are so violent; he replied that, given what he calls the "selfish gene", i.e., the biological imperative to survive, it's remarkable how moral human beings are. But he said it probably has to do with the natural selection from an era when no one ventured more than 5 miles from the place they were born, and so everyone they came into contact with was a tribe member/ kinsman or -woman.

Too much thinking, possibly. Thank you all.