I have just returned home from our Ash Wednesday service at Jeffersontown Christian Church. Today, we had a number of folks come early in morning to participate in the imposition of ashes on their way to work or to go about the business of the day. Then, this evening we had over sixty people come for the service. There’s something about the Ash Wednesday that, for me, is both uncomfortable and comforting. It’s uncomfortable to confess my sinfulness and to face my mortality in the words of the night: from dust you have come and to dust you will return. Then, again, it’s comforting to be in the presence of others who are also uncomfortable confessing their sinfulness while all of us wait for the words of forgiveness which cannot come quick enough.

Even with those words of hope at the close of the liturgy, it did not prepare me for the “rest of the story.” It started at dinner, before the service. Conversations around the tables turned to the news, which I had not seen during the afternoon: another school shooting. At this moment, the death toll stands at seventeen. This is the eighteenth school shooting of 2018. In just forty-five days, we have witnessed eighteen times when the safety of our children has been compromised. That’s like one every two and a half days this year. Eight have fortunately not injured a person, but ten have injured or killed students, teachers and the shooters. We are reminded by this event that our mortality is only one act of violence away.

As I scanned the feeds from several new organizations, I was saddened, but not surprised, to see the predictable reactions of various groups. On the one hand, there were calls for more or stronger gun control laws. On another, calls for the arming of teachers were championed. Yet another suggested we station police officers in classrooms. I remember a time in my life, back in 1969, when for two weeks we had police officers in every classroom in my high school. It was following a period of unrest and protests in our community. As students we were both uncomfortable and comforted at the same time: uncomfortable with the violence that caused this placement of officers in the school, but also with the presence of weapons in such close proximity; comforted knowing that we would be protected if needed by these dedicated peace keepers.

I am pretty sure there are no easy answers on how to deal with these tragedies looming on the horizon. I am equally certain that opinions will not change much, so we will likely see another tragedy before we can forget today or what happened at Marshall High School recently. The saddest part is that more teachers will die protecting their charges; more children will experience their mortality way too soon; more unsettled young people will be lost to world as they meet their reckoning after taking the lives of friends and faculty; more weapons will be made and sold and it will not make the world a safer place.