Notes from the Vicar of Grace

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Bill Harper

Dear Friends--

Would you be surprised to know that my "inbox" has been crammed with "outflow" about the tragedy in Tucson?  I doubt it. 
Tragedy?  Is that the right word?   

 Really, how do you react when you hear, yet again, of gun violence?  How do you react when reminded that human beings are so fragile, and that on some random day a Safeway parking lot is not the least bit safe?  How do you process endless political rhetoric laced with blame and without one word of responsibility, accountability?  How, in simple words, do you, or I, make sense of the senseless?   


Of course this is no idle question, is it?  We are, in some ways, bombarded by the "senseless" every day.  So we ourselves become sort of senseless--as in just numb.  Or numbed.  Anesthetized.  Our souls on Novocain.  Yes, some events, circumstances, tragedies, get past that numbed membrane and we feel some grief--but then we want to deal with the feelings by making sense of them.  Or rationalizing them.  Or assigning blame.  Mostly, we do all of this.  Abraham Heschel, the great and wise Jewish scholar and theologian, once said that "in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible."  That's the really hard part--and what sends us seeking numbness: we know that that when bad things happen we are all part of it.  We have some role to play. 

 It really is about all of us, and not just about "them."And that can be hard to understand.  This is our world, and what happens in it, and to its People, belongs to us all.


What I know is that there is amazing grace in our world.There is love and tenderness and courage; there is mercy and justice and reconciliation.  And sometimes this goodness brings us to tears because it seems so far beyond our imagination--and yet it happens.  It's real.  People just like us have an enormous capacity for goodness.  And I also know that there is darkness.  Bad.  Evil.  The world knows well injustice, lies, manipulation and greed.  People--not "them" but "us"--will use words and lies for personal gain and self aggrandizement.   It's all there--and while it seems beyond our imagination, it's all too real.  This is our world. 

But is that it?  Is that all we can say?  Does life really come down to some sort of forever battle or balance between good and bad?  I don't think so.  Which, of course, is why I find the Story of our faith to be so real, and essential.  In this Story, life renews and resurrects, and redemption is always possible.  We can side with this story, or we can sink into sadness.  We can witness to the good, or we can let ourselves be manipulated by cynics.  This is no rhetorical choice--it's a brave one we have to make every day.  It seems to have been the choice Gabrielle Giffords was making.  I'm going to believe she'll be making it again.  So will I. 


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