Archive for August, 2012

What Really Matters

“Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine.”
— from “Auguries of Innocence” (1803) by William Blake

July 19th will be a red letter day on my calendar for the rest of my life, for it was the day on which my daughter was born.  I shall always remember her first cries as she was delivered: I held tight to my wife’s hand and the world stood still in that moment.  Much later, after a long day in the hospital, busier than any we had known in a long time, and having shared our happy news with family and friends, my wife and I finally drifted off to sleep, tired but filled with joy for this new life.

Then, on July 20th, the new day woke us with unhappy news.  We noticed that some of our friends had posted on Facebook their reassurances that they were okay, and we wondered what had happened.  We learned that a heavily armed man had opened fire at a movie theater in Colorado, killing a dozen people  and wounding dozens more.  Our hearts sank when we recognized the theater, which is not far from where we lived in Aurora only a few years ago, and where we had ourselves watched movies with friends.

Religion is at its best when it helps us to celebrate life and to grieve in the wake of death.  Particularly at times of great joy and at times of great woe we all need a community of the like-hearted that can support us by sharing in our struggle to find meaning in both life and death.  For a church is like a gym for our souls, a place where we can go to exercise our spiritual muscles by practicing the gratitude, compassion and hope that we need to be fully human throughout the week.

The unfortunate fact is, however, that the number of people in the United States who report no religious affiliation is increasing, many of them turned off not just by church-based homophobia and sexism but also by injustice’s decoration in religious bromides.  It doesn’t help that the media tend to portray the more conservative forms of religion as the only forms of religion, but when religious leaders would rather dictate the details of citizens’ sexual lives than feed the hungry and shelter the stranger, then it is nothing short of a massive failure of our calling to minister to the real needs of the world.

And yet, it doesn’t need to be that way.  There is no shortage of opportunities to wake up, to open our hearts to the call “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”.

For every birth is a reminder that life is both precious and all too short, and every death is a reminder of what really matters in life.  Both provide occasions for us to exercise gratitude, compassion and hope.  As we enjoy these first weeks of my daughter’s new life, for instance, my wife and I are grateful to many people: the doctors and nurses at both the Center for Women’s Health and Mary Immaculate Hospital for their skill and care; our own parents, for their love and support of us in countless ways; and the members of my congregation who helped us make ready our home for a baby and are now bringing us meals.  As we think about our friends in Colorado and our former neighbors in Aurora, we mourn the senseless loss of twelve all-too-young lives and we keep in our prayers all those who are still suffering from the trauma and loss of that terrible night.  And for all of us, for every family and community, we hope for a future where none of us need live in fear, a future where each of us is free to discover for ourselves who we are and what we can be, a future where every religion supports rather than opposes our striving to be fully human, fully realized and, most importantly, fully loved.

Advertisements

Comments (1)

%d bloggers like this: