This has been a hard week. The news and social media has been buzzing with reports of violence upon more violence. Hate upon more hate. Evil upon more evil. There is no other way to describe the events that have taken place in Orlando where over 50 people are slain for no reason at all, except for who they choose to love. In this same week we learn the heart breaking news of another Canadian murdered in the Philippians. As if that is not enough, the other day the world learned of the brutal shooting and stabbing of a British MP, Jo Cox.
When matched against such violence we as people and a church seem small and insignificant. What we do Sunday after Sunday; what we do each week visiting the sick and tending the needs of our people and community seems inadequate and insignificant. Who can blame anyone for lamenting that the church seems helpless in these times? Standing in solidarity at candle lit vigils and the like are attempts to make some sense and come to terms with tragedy. These actions seem completely inadequate when matched with the magnitude of terror that faces the world.
For many of us when we hear news such as we have heard this past week, we can be consumed with anger, frustration and even rage. These are natural, human emotions. We may be angry at the person, people or militant group that carries out these crimes. We look for something or someone to blame. That is the easy knee jerk response when we feel wronged or hurt. Who can we blame? The anger mounts within us and we need an outlet. The people we love, clergy and even God become easy targets.
To paraphrase a colleague of mine commenting on the Orlando killings, he said that vengeance and anger is like a consuming monster, it builds up inside us and if we are not careful it can take over us and our lives.
Who is my equal? This is the question raised from our reading in Isaiah this morning. This is a hard question to think about in the face of the events and follow up in this past week. It comes to us almost out of the blue to blind-side us. Who is my equal? Subconsciously we may be tempted to think, “Certainly not those who commit such heinous crimes.”
Today we also commemorate Aboriginal Sunday. We remember that we are guests on this earth, only here for a short period of time. We remember the crimes that our society and people have committed against our fellow citizens, our neighbors. While we ourselves may have not directly committed crimes against humanity, we do form part of a church and country that did.
Who is my equal? A question that takes us by surprise. When we think about our equals, our neighbors and the kind of church and country we strive to create and participate in, we remember that our freedom and the freedom of the ‘other’, whoever the ‘other’ may be, has come with a heavy price and sacrifice. If we think about the events of this past week and our own beloved First Peoples in Canada, I wonder how many of them have felt the monster called vengeance and anger mount within themselves or their ancestors. I wonder how many people and ancestors of all generations have felt angry and helpless in the face human tragedy.
When we think about this for just a moment, we realize that we too have the capacity to hate. And that is a frightening thought. We begin to realize that we too, if we are not careful, are not too different from those who commit senseless violence in our own community, church and world.
Who is my equal? This is a hard question to wrestle with because we realize that we are all equals, friend, enemy and everyone who we see as ‘different’. We are all equals and we are all each other’s neighbor. This is the point of Isaiah. As hard as it is, we can only begin to think about peace, healing and reconciliation when we recognize that regardless of who is responsible for tragedy it is our neighbor who is both victim and perpetrator and we are their equal. As equals we need to, for our salvation and theirs, to pray for friend and enemy alike. We bleed, just as they bleed, we cry just as we cry, we mourn just as they mourn. Because in the end, #weareallorlando.