The following reflections are the foundation of comments shared at the “Interfaith Vigil and Rally: Faith Acting on Gun Violence” by the Rev. Amy E. Reumann on June 8, 2022, hosted by Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C.
by the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, ELCA Senior Director, Witness in Society
I don’t know what tone to strike today. Is it to be a deep wail of grief and sadness at the blood that has been spilled, the lives lost, the communities forever changed by gun violence? Is it to be cries of holy rage at our leaders in Congress who we fear once again may not hear our determination and add the smallest scrap of protection for children and teachers; for shoppers in the Black community; for the faithful worshipping in church, synagogue, mosque or temple? I want to do both. But here in this space of a Lutheran church, I want to start with what every Lutheran worship service begins with – confession. To make confession to God and to one another about what we have done and what we have left undone.
Our confession is that we have forgotten whose we are and therefore who we are – created and lovingly made to walk in God’s way of peace and live in God’s shalom. We are to strive for the vision of a peaceable kingdom where enemies reconcile and turn weapons of war into instruments of agriculture, of feeding others, of kindness and generosity.
We confess to allowing our nation to be awash with guns, awash with weapons, awash with unchecked violence, awash with people so alienated that they turn to weapons of war to express themselves.
We confess to failing to protect our children.
We confess that we ignore or quickly forget the pain of gun violence – especially in communities threatened and stalked by gun violence where people are of a different race or religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation than ours.
We confess to numbness from the numbers of those shot, maimed, killed, and left to mourn after media moves on; to weariness at the frequency of these events.
Here’s the thing about confession. When we name the truth of what is, we are also given the potential to see what can be changed. When we receive God’s forgiveness, it is not an end but a beginning that seeds our hope.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, we are taught that faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Today, however, in this moment in this nation, the greatest to me is hope.
I have been reading a book of mediations called Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage, written by former Episcopalian priest Steven Charleston. In one chapter he reflects on his ancestors’ walk along the Trail of Tears, seeing nothing beyond the trauma of what they were living with. What sustained them along this trail was the one blessing they needed most: vision to see beyond what is to what the future could be.
He writes, “Here is the holy equation of faith: We are as strong as what we hope. Hope may be dormant beneath the weight of oppression. It may be small and precious, handed down through word of mouth, told in stories, preserved in ceremonies. It may go underground, a hidden light to keep the vision alive. So it was with my people for centuries.”
We, too, are as strong as what we hope. And the hope that we have is not dependent on our whims and on the headlines which flicker and fail. Our hope rises from God’s overflowing faithfulness, love and promises that bind us together as an interfaith community, united in hope, to seek peace. From this we draw strength and power and community for the journey against gun violence.
Our marching and advocacy are ways that we embody hope with and for each other, even in what may seem like hopeless circumstances. We are as strong as what we hope. And we speak, we march, we plant, striving for something not yet realized, but firm in the promise. We act in hope together.