I am numbed by the news, the numbers and the aftermath of it all. Las Vegas, Nevada: 59 dead, 527 wounded. Orlando, Florida: 49 dead, 58 wounded. Blacksburg, Virginia: 33 dead, 17 wounded. Newtown, Connecticut: 28 dead, 20 wounded (mostly children). Killeen, Texas: 24 dead, 27 wounded. San Ysidro, California: 22 dead, 19 wounded. Austin, Texas: 18 dead, 31 wounded. Edmond, Oklahoma: 15 dead, 6 wounded. San Bernardino, California: 16 dead, 24 wounded. Fort Hood, Texas: 13 dead, 33 wounded.

The untold numbers of family members and friends affected by the loss of loved ones must be staggering. We ask ourselves, “Why?” We hear answers like “terrorism”, “hate crime”, “mental health issues”, “hatred of women and ethnic minorities”, “going postal”, and “radicalization”. We ask ourselves, “What can we do?” We are told a lot of things, none of which are adequate or make us feel safer. We ask ourselves, “When will it end?” We are faced with the truth of the times in which we live, that the rights of individuals seem to outweigh the good of the community. Because, when the Second Amendment to the Constitution was added, nobody trusted the Crown in England to remain defeated after the Revolution of the American Colonies. So, it was believed that local militias should be comprised of citizens who each had a weapon in case of a call to muster. Those weapons were single shot, muzzle-loaded rifles and pistols. Now we live in a time when invasion by another nation’s army is a virtual impossibility. We are certainly vulnerable to attack via cyber-space, but not only remotely so physically. So, now the Amendment is mostly seen as a means of self-protection from criminals and/or irate family, friends and neighbors who have a weapon of their own and chose to use it indiscriminately.

I am afraid that we will not hear satisfactory answers to our questions anytime soon. The chasm between supporters of individual rights and the supporters of community well-being is wide with no obvious bridges. Our elected leaders who have the mandate to deal with issues like this are just as divided. Some are supported by influential political pacts and indebted to gun industry lobbyists. Others are supported by civilian organizations of police chiefs and sheriffs. Some believe that the immediate aftermath of one of these mass shootings is not a good time to talk about the issue of gun control and violence on our streets. The memory will fade and the anger will subside and we will be distracted from the conversation by another media cycle of frenzied feeding. It’s likely we will not know for sure know the why of it, or hear options of what to do about it, or see it all end.

So, we are left to pray: for those who are victims as well as their families and friends; for forgiveness for the shooters and their families; for forgiveness for not doing anything ourselves; for the communities who suffer after such disregard for human life happens on their streets; and for God’s Kingdom to come sooner rather than later. We who gather around the table each week as a community represent a glimpse of that Kingdom. May our tears mingle with God’s tears as we mourn the loss of life, the shattering of community and the feeling of hopelessness that grows out of the darkness of evil. There is nothing more for me to say this day except that I hope you can find a place of peace in your heart.