Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this sermon.
Waiting might be a good thing. Learning to be patient is good and useful. But I am not feeling it this day.
I know that those who are grounded in a liberal, progressive faith, who believe that one day the Beloved Community will be here—that Love will win—have learned to be patient, meaning have learned to not give up. I am grounded there, too. I don’t want to give up, and I don’t want you to give up.
But how long must we remain patient, patient for change to come? When will the killing of the innocent who should have been safe be over?
My heart has been in the Ukraine with the innocent children, parents, citizens, who are suffering; those dying, those experiencing trauma they will live with forever. Then in Buffalo, NY, where going to the grocery store became a way new way to die for being Black and never safe. Now my heart is with the parents and the children and the schoolteachers, parents whose children were taken from them so suddenly, children whose parents are gone forever in Uvalde, Texas.
When will it end? When will those not prepared for war—not expecting an assault rifle to break their everyday routine—be safe at school, in the grocery store, in their home?
I heard a parent interviewed on the news, a parent whose 10-year-old had been murdered in Uvalde. Her father kept asking, “What did she do?” It was heartbreaking.
I learned years ago, in chaplaincy training, that those kinds of questions don’t have answers. Those kinds of statements aren’t seeking answers. No explanation would help the human mind understand such tragedy. “What did she do?” is not a question, it is a “lament,” a passionate expression of grief.
Another shocking shooting of innocents has caused the nation, even the world, to lament, to cry out. Don’t tell me to be patient. Tell me what to do to stop it and stop it now.
Yet Valerie Kaur reminds to be patient and grieve. She says, “America’s greatest social movements were rooted in the solidarity that came from shared grieving. First people grieved together.”
It is okay to grieve, to lament, to wish not to feel this pain. It is okay to just hold each other and let the tears come, the rage, the sense of utter helplessness.
Kaur continues, asking:
GRIEVE: What is the shape of grief in your body? If you feel the primal scream in you, this is the time to make space for healing. Let yourself touch the sorrow, rest, and breathe. Don’t isolate. Show up to a healing circle at your school with parents and teachers. Organize one if needed. Go to vigils. Be with people who make you feel safe. Let in softness and love into the places that ache. Make space to just to stop—and feel this together.
RAGE: What is the force of rage in your body? Notice where you are constricted, tense, or numb. Now move that energy—curse, scream, shake, dance, run. Don’t choke down your rage. Or let it fester. Be with people who can honor this rage and process it in safe containers. Your rage carries information—what is it telling you? You have something to fight for. You have a role to play, and no role is too small.
FIGHT: What courageous step are you ready to take? Do not swallow the lie that nothing can be done. You have a sphere of influence. Every choice we make—every word, every action, every encounter—co-creates culture and shapes what happens next. Will you use your voice, your art, your story, your money, your power, your heart?
[Once you have expressed your grief, your rage, and are ready to fight]:
REIMAGINE: What is the world you want? What does beloved community look like, feel like? We can only live into what we imagine. Protect time and space to dream and dream big. Then take one step toward that dream.
BREATHE: How will you breathe today? This is the work of a lifetime. Our lifetime. Take time to rest, step away from the news, nourish your body and your beloveds. Remember the wisdom of the midwife: Breathe, my love, then push. When joy comes, let it come. In joy, we presage the world to come.
Breathe. Rise again. Rise again and pledge again that you will do all you can to love all the children, regardless of whether you find them lovable or not. That you will patiently do what is hard to do to make love more universal, more of a balm for the troubled, the angry, and the violent boys with guns.
When I was in divinity school in Nashville at Vanderbilt, long ago, there was a small group of lesbians who felt called to extend love to incarcerated perpetrators of domestic violence. They wrote for and received funding and did what they needed to do to get access to prisons so they could start support groups for the men who were guilty of this offense. I admired them and their efforts, from a distance. I knew I didn’t have the patience for that kind of calling. Or the courage.
I was grateful they did.
Now so many years later, I am raising three sons. Two of them show no sign of violent behaviors. But one of my twins gets so angry at times. I am struggling to learn how to help him express the anger he feels, to lament, and move past it. I realize I am the one who often gets in the way. He recovers, returns to his sweet, nearly 8-year-old self, while I am and remain embarrassed, worried, and often insulted by his temper. I tell myself over and over that anger is a feeling, a feeling that needs to be expressed, not stifled, not controlled, not shut down. Righteous anger (rage) can be channeled productively.
May we all have the patience to allow the room—the space—to lament, to cry out, to be angry, to allow the other to cry out, to be angry, to ask why.
May we have the courage to deepen our empathy for those who feel loss, those who grieve. May we also acknowledge our own grieving, to grieve with and for our loved ones, to grieve for ourselves and what we have lost. May we have the courage that comes with righteous anger, the long-lasting, patient energy to make change for the greater good.
Those of us who are beyond childhood can no longer claim to be innocent. We make terrible mistakes. Not unlike the police chief in Uvalde, or the teacher who left a door propped open who must feel awful. We must live with guilt, with the shame of our own selfish, or fearful behaviors, what we may have done out of anger to hurt the other, to harm, rather than heal; and what we have not done to make the change that needs to be made. We must be patient when a rush to judgment and to blame is the first thing we often seek to do, to relieve us from pain. It won’t help. An eye for an eye isn’t love. It is just revenge.
What we must do is get up in the morning and begin again in love, learning from our mistakes, asking for forgiveness, creating a better world, over and over, being patient with ourselves and our loved ones, having the courage to keep on when we are but human.
The poet Amanda Gorman says:
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Even our children
Cannot be children,
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:Amanda Gorman, “Hymn for the Hurting” (2022).
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost. Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.