October 11, 2015
Mark 10:17-31
Hebrews 4:12-16
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15

Anger, Anguish, and Faith’s Vanishing Act
Proper 23 | OT 28

Full installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

Chris Keating

This past Thursday it happened again -- another in a long line of violent outbursts, leaving multiple victims in its wake and a nation trying to understand the unfathomable. Particularly disturbing was the setting -- a community college in a small Oregon town -- not to mention reports that the shooter expressly singled out Christians and killed them while just wounding those who didn’t respond affirmatively when asked if they were Christian. If it seems like this has happened before, that’s because it has -- with more than one mass shooting happening every day somewhere in America, the numbers have become simply mind-numbing. Perhaps the sense that this has become routine fueled President Obama’s response, which was eerily reminiscent of the raw anger and frustration expressed by Jon Stewart in the wake of the Charleston shootings.

So what can we say from the pulpit to help our congregations come to grips with this latest insanity? After the television cameras and satellite trucks pack up and move to the next destination, how do we make sense of it all? Where was God when those who bravely professed their faith paid the ultimate price for doing so? In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Chris Keating offers a theological reflection on these questions, drawing on this coming Sunday’s lectionary texts from Job and Psalm 22. Here’s a preview:

Anger, Anguish, and Faith’s Vanishing Act
by Chris Keating
Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15

Thursday, October 1 was supposed to be just another day.

For Jason Johnson, 33, last Thursday was the fourth day of classes at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Johnson had just enrolled in school after completing rehab for drug addiction. Like others in the small college, Johnson was settling into a morning of classes. Just another day in a busy semester.

But it turned tragic as Johnson and eight others were murdered by a fellow student, who then killed himself after exchanging gunfire with police officers. An additional nine persons were wounded in a mass shooting that left the little community and the entire nation stunned. Hoping to improve his life, Jason Johnson had enrolled in classes at UCC after successfully passing the GED a few months ago. His family reported that Johnson was proud to be taking steps toward a new life, even as the gunman was taking steps to end it.

The numbing routine of crisis once again interrupted the nation. Another day, another act of gruesome violence. Another community visited by horror.

As news spread, the now-familiar script of tragedy unfolded. The Roseburg shooting was the nation’s 294th mass shooting in 274 days, a statistic so stunning that it defies explanation. The bitterness of President Obama’s voice was evident as he stood before reporters in a room ironically named for former presidential press secretary and shooting victim James Brady. Speaking as a president but also as a father, Obama asked for prayers for the young persons who had been shot. But then, he added, “that’s not enough.”

In the wake of stunning violence, prayers alone were not sufficient.

“As I said just a few months ago, and just a few months before that,” Obama intoned, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger we should feel.” The lament over lives lost and trauma inflicted upon a community continues.

Like Job and the psalmist, our nation cries out in lament: “If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face” (Job 23:17). In response, we offer our cries, our tears, and our fumbling attempts to make sense of the senseless -- perhaps even wondering “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a).

>> Full installment posted Tuesday afternoon.

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter