Yesterday eighteen kids gathered up backpacks and books, they grabbed their favorite colorful lunchbox, and they headed to school. None of them ever made it home. Along with two adults, they are the latest fatalities of the gun-happy, violent society we have built. Tragically, I wrote about the deaths in Buffalo, NY last week. This is America.
This past week, a young man went to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and started shooting. The location chosen, after a prolonged period of planning by the shooter, was in a Black neighborhood. He shot victims for one reason and one reason alone: they were Black. The white shooter was convinced that a vast conspiracy was afoot to “replace” all the white people in his world, including himself, with people of color, immigrants, and Jews. He was driven by hate cultivated by paranoia, fear, and just plain old stupidity.
When I left college and started a career (the first one), life seemed full. I had my job. As I was back in my hometown, I had family. I had friends. I was still an active musician and often had a band to play with on a lot of weekends. Life was full. As life became more complicated, I found my way back to church. It seemed a worthwhile extracurricular activity, something to fit in the spaces - when there were spaces. I thought I would meet new friends, or maybe even a cute young woman (that happened later and is a story for another day).
In last Sunday’s gospel lesson, Jesus asks Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Simon Peter says, “Yes, I love you.” Then Jesus commands him to “feed my sheep” and “tend my sheep.” This lesson is often used at the ordination of a pastor to drive home the charge to tend or care for the flock – the congregation, the people of God.