Jan
06

What Can Adam Lanza Teach Us?

Adam LanzaDec. 30/12, First Sunday after Christmas, Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians 3:12-17 and the Gospel According to St. Luke 2:22-40, Riverbend Lutheran Church, Edmonton, AB.

 

The audio of the sermon is here, titled “Response:” http://www.riverbendlutheran.com/sermons.php

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Merry Christmas! This is the First Sunday after Christmas and just one of the 12 days of Christmas that starts on Christmas Day and continue until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. This part of the Christmas season always finds me in a very reflective mood, a mood that forces me to ponder. And that’s probably a good thing; we don’t do a lot of pondering in our day and age. We don’t ponder – we Google. But it is the perfect time.

Advent has come and gone with all of its demands on our time and our preparations for the upcoming Christmas celebrations, not to mention the travelling and running around and the family, and it is during this time, in the lull before New Year’s that most people have some extra time that isn’t crammed to overflowing with commitments. And so I ponder.

I think, whether we know it or not, this particular Christmas season may leave us pondering more than most. You see, during this Advent, just weeks ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in Newtown Connecticut.

I know all of you know what I am talking about. It shocked us. It riveted us. It brought tears to our eyes and an ache to our hearts. We all learned a new name, Adam Lanza.

This very sick individual went on a murderous rampage on that day in Advent, in an elementary school. He arrived, having already murdered his mother, and moved into the school. He wandered up and down the hallways indiscriminately firing at anyone that came into his path.

The terrible details about the last moments of young innocents emerged as authorities released their names and ages — the youngest 6; the oldest 56. They included Ana Marquez-Greene, a little girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada; Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who apparently died while trying to hide her pupils; and principal Dawn Hochsprung, who authorities said lunged at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

In a first-grade classroom, Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, was shot. All but one of the children in her classroom were also shot; a six-year-old girl was the sole survivor. Her family pastor said that the child survived the mass shooting by playing dead and remaining still until the building grew quiet and she felt it was safe to leave. She ran from the school, covered in blood, and was the first child to escape the building. When she reached her mother, she said, “Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.” The child described the shooter as a very angry man.

I’m sorry for sharing these horrible things. I know especially for those of us that are parents this tears us apart. My baby girl is six. This could have been her. It could have been any of us or any of the people we love. Our world is Fallen and full of sin, death stalks us at every turn and we have no idea when its evil will touch us.

So what do we do now?

Our Gospel reading finds St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary taking their eldest son to the Temple in Jerusalem for the customary offering that was given after a child was born. There, some incredible things start to happen. My favourite is that of Simeon, whose song we sometimes sing after we have Holy Communion. You see Simeon was an old man who had been promised “by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Can you picture it? Joseph and Mary walk in with their baby now only a few days old and this man swoops over to them and the Bible says that, “when the parents brought in the child Jesus…he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Amazing stuff. This old man took this defenceless child in his arms tenderly and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” Lord, now I can die. Now I have seen Your Son Jesus, now I have seen You. It is no mistake that we often sing this song moments after we eat His body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In that, we have truly seen Him, been forgiven by Him, and are made ready to die.

God forgives all of our sin. All of it. He has saved us and will save us. We will be with Him in Heaven where we will await the Resurrection of the Dead. “And the dead will be raised imperishable.” Death hasn’t any power over us, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Its pain is felt only by those of us that are left behind, by us who continue to live. And we Christians respond much in the way that Pastor Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown did, with prayer. With hope. With joy in the coming of a Saviour lying in a stable – ready to take away all of our sins, our pain, and our loss.

The world looks at us like we are crazy when we react this way in our darkest moments. When in our pain and suffering and our utter lack of understanding of how something like this could have happened we turn our focus first from ourselves and our own suffering and place it on a baby born thousands of years ago. They see this as madness. We see it as the omnipotent King Almighty, God and Creator of the Universe entering powerfully to become a human being just like us so that He can serve us, those He loves.

So how do we, as God’s own children, respond in the world to the deaths of so many in this senseless way? Well, we serve each other as God serves us. Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbour does.” But it is St. Paul who instructs us, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved – compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Please. This could all be taken away from us tomorrow. We have very little control in that. And while we are here on Earth we have a major responsibility. God has placed in all of our lives people for whom we must care for. People whom we must serve. People whom we must reach out to. And in all seriousness, after spending the holidays with our families, we know we have people who have hurt us, people whom we must forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

St. Paul continues, “Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Yes Lord, help us to be thankful. Not after some tragedy has befallen us and it is all taken away, but every day let us be thankful for that which you have given us. Parents, after you heard about the shootings, how closely did you hug your child that night? How many times did you tell them you loved them before you sent them off to school again? How thankful did you feel for their presence in your life?

Don’t let it take this happening to act that way. I wish you could see this congregation from the perspective that I or Pastor van Maanen or Kathy sees it. You would see how much love and help there is here for each other, for hurting people, for their families. It’s breathtaking. Keep being, above all, a people of love.

Our Bible passage continues, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This we do. This we are doing right now. We teach each other – it is incredible what you all have taught me in my time here, we admonish each other – sometimes we need to be told when we are going off track, we sing. In the heart of darkness: surrounded by the sin of the flesh, the world, and the devil, you sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” of hope and love and the great salvation of our God. It’s incredible.

And let me tell you, I know that you all, “in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I know it isn’t always easy to put others ahead of yourselves, to resist the temptation to think of yourself first, and I know that you will fail and you have failed already. Keep trying. And know. Know that Christ has forgiven you. Know that that baby has saved you. Know with the very same faith that Simeon knew that, “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Pastor Morris of Newtown, Connecticut lost a member of his congregation on that fateful day, a little child. What was his response?

He proclaimed the Gospel promise of God through our Baptisms where we were made members of God’s family and all of our sins were forgiven during his Christmas Eve sermon. The night when that child would be the most missed, He proclaimed the salvation through Baptism that was applied to that child, on a night when we celebrate the birth of a child, who powerfully became sin for us to forgive us all of our sins. Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, a newborn with His loving family.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.

 

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