This is what happens when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We engage in conflict with evil.
We have encountered some evil this week, have we not. A nineteen year old former student walks into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and kills seventeen people: three adults and fourteen young teenagers.
Again. This keeps happening again and again.
I said last Wednesday that in dealing with this, we need to feel, as well as talk and do. Because when we feel, we understand people as human beings. The devil loves for us to ride out on grand ventures to eradicate evil, and forget that it involves people, like Alyssa Alhadeff, and Aaron Feis, and Joaquin Oliver.
Also, we are dealing with powers and principalities that are bigger than we are. We will not be able to face this alone. Therefore we need to check our egos at the door. Because the devil loves to hook into our pride, to keep us from respecting each other, to keep us from imagining that someone who disagrees with us might have a legitimate contribution to the whole solution. You can pick up your ego again on your way out, there's no place for it in the church.
Also, we check our despair at the door. The devil loves to make us feel overwhelmed, overpowered, overcome, so that we throw up our hands in despair of doing anything. Check your despair at the door. You can pick it up again on your way out. Despair has no place in the church. Because you know what we are: a people of the cross, a people of hope.
What do we believe in? We believe in God the Father almighty. Look at this image for a moment. Those of us who are fathers, have you ever noticed how absolutely huge we appear to be in a three-year -old's eyes. All of us, fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, friends, we adults are unimaginably powerful in a five year old's world. That's what God is like to us. The demonic might be powerful, but God is even more powerful.
Some of you may remember a show from back in the day called Barney. Barney was a purple dinosaur who would sing and dance and play with kids. Everybody loved him, but not just because he was purple and sang and danced. Right? What kind of dinosaur was Barney? He was a T-rex. There's a reason for that.
Little kids know there is chaos out there. Little kids know there is demonic evil. Our species would not have survived this long if they didn't. So little kids like having a Tyrannosaurus Rex on their side.
Same with us. We need the help of the Almighty.
In the book of Isaiah, God says, “I have been silent.” Does God ever seem silent to you? God had been silent for a long time. The people of Judah had been carried off into Babylon. They had been forced out of their homes. Many of their families had been killed. The God they believed in, the God of freedom who had brought them out of slavery, the God of community that had forged the Ten Commandments within which they could live in peace, the God of wonder, who had created the universe, had gone silent.
“I have gone silent,” says God. “But now, like a woman in childbirth, I moan, I writhe, I cry out.” Not only is God powerful. God gives birth.
This school shooting in Parkland, people talk about it as if it was routine, as if it was normal. It may be routine, but this is not normal. It's demonic. People talk as if this were becoming old in the worst sense of the word. Like they are becoming desensitized, numb.
In the midst of a violence that has become routine, old in the worst sense of the world, repetitive, numb, God gives birth to a new thing.
I would be interested in a conversation about how we can be a part of this new thing. A conversation in which people respect each other even when they disagree; in which we assume that God has something for us to learn, even from those who think differently than we do. Because we are a people, the body of Christ.
And speaking of the Body of Christ, the Gospel of Mark does not provide a detailed account of this scene of testing or temptation between Jesus and the devil. Matthew and Luke do, but Mark leaves us guessing, unless there is a hint later in the book, where Jesus has just told his disciples that he will be humiliated and killed. Peter can't stand this idea, so he says, “Lord, no!” Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!”
It's as if Peter was tempting Jesus much like Satan might have, to just enjoy his glory and avoid the cross. Jesus is tempted at the end of the gospel too. People come up to him on the cross and say, “Let him come down from the cross now, so that we might believe!” Temptation.
Jesus is tempted to avoid the cross, the sacrifice for us.
I think we are tempted to avoid the cross too. But we are the Body of Christ. We take up the cross too. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to begin the process of doing away with school shootings? This is not one wave of the magic wand. This is a learning process. So we will make mistakes. We will fall down in the mud. But what are we willing to sacrifice?
Because we know there is a resurrection. We know there is a life beyond the death. We are a people of the cross, a people of hope. We are a people who are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are a people who engage in conflict with evil.