Timothy C. Ahrens
The First Congregational Church
United Church of Christ
May 7, 2000
Acts 3:12-19 and Luke 24:36b-48
Another passage of scripture for the day: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. It is by faith that we understand the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen is made from things that are invisible" (Hebrews 11:1-3).
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each one of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our salvation. Amen.
"We walk by faith, and not by sight," says Paul in II Corinthians 5:7. In such unseeing faith, we find our hope and we believe (in spite of the evidence not to believe), then watch as the evidence changes. Jim Wallis in Faith Works writes, "Simply put, faith makes hope possible. And hope is the single most important ingredient for changing the world." Today, there are daily stories in our world that by their very nature encourage us to be people of un-faith and no hope. They are stories of death and destruction and violence. But, in the face of such seeming devastation, faith begins to walk. Once faith begins to walk, and mobilize others to walk, you soon find multitudes of people marching in the light of God. Yes, faith moves us. It moves and motivates us through the testimonies of those who face life and conquer injustices through the power of their faith. Their names may appear in our paper's headlines, but often they are on city streets where two or three gather to do no good and they are witnesses for God. One such mobilizing, inspiring group is calling us to march next week. They are Moms.
These Moms have brought the horrors of gun violence into the national spotlight. Statistics are often compelling. But, this statistic is deadly and devastating. Every day in America, twelve children die of gunshot wounds. Some are crime victims; some are wrong-place at the wrong-time victims; some are unlocked-and-loaded in the house victims, and others are victims of suicide made easy by access to a gun. By tomorrow morning when we go back to work or begin our day in some other activity, twelve more children will be dead. By week's end, the number grows to 84, by month's end, 336, by year's end, 4368. Each day there is no action on the issue of gun violence or gun accidents the count of death rises. Enough is enough.
One week from today, Mother's Day, there will be a Million Mom March in Washington, D.C. and it will be joined by hundreds of local marches nationwide. Mothers and honorary mothers, fathers, grandparents and children will gather nationwide to say we have seen enough death and enough violence. Locally, the March will gather next Sunday in Bicentennial Park at noon and march to City Hall for a 2:30pm rally. My hope is that we who have concerns about this issue will join others to say we want to keep our kids safe from gun violence.
Now mothers are practical by nature. So, this is not a movement to ban guns. No matter how you feel about guns, there are certain principles everyone can support. Moms nationwide are calling for reasonable, common sense, enforceable laws requiring licensing with safety training and registration of guns. The feeling is that people should be required to be as responsible with deadly weapons as we are with our cars.
When faced with any kind of violence, we ask "who do we hold responsible?" In the wake of the shootings in Littleton, Colorado last year, an unidentified mother faced the cameras in a nationally televised town meeting. She spoke with pain, anger, and the authority of someone who had suffered a very great loss. Her eleven-year-old daughter had been in the line of fire when two young boys had donned military fatigues in Jonesboro, Arkansas the year before and turned automatic weapons on their schoolmates. She said, "There's never been anybody we can hold responsible. We couldn't hold the boys responsible because their just children. We couldn't hold the parents responsible because who wants to blame parents? And the media says `it's not our fault,' and the gun culture says, `it's not our fault,' so I want the world to tell me whose fault it is that we have fifteen kids this year along with five last year?"
And then she answered her own questions . . . "I hold a gun-toting nation responsible. I hold a nation which will allow a child to watch many hours of violence on television but the parents lave a problem with these same children going to a funeral. If they are going to let their children watch violence, then let them go to the funeral and let them see what happens when somebody's shot . . . I hold parents responsible because parents are responsible. Know what your child is doing . . . " I knew what my child was doing. But it didn't stop someone else's child, who didn't know what their sons were doing from taking my girl's life.
We are living in a culture where folks are afraid to lay blame, anxious to be tolerant and eager to be politically correct. We can only acknowledge that it's hard to deal with the causes of such tragedies. I believe the time has come for the people of God to work together for good, standing in hope and marching in the light of God, to be agents of nonviolent social transformation. We must hope in spite of the evidence and then watch the evidence change.
In Luke 24:36-48, our Risen Savior appears to his disciples. They believe they are seeing a ghost, but he shows them flesh and bones. He offers them his hands and feet - four proofs that he is who he says he is. He wants them to see his wounds - not his eyes, nor his voice. "Look at my hands and feet," he said. These were the hands that had broken bread and shared cooked fish by the seaside. These were the hands that had pressed mud against a blind man's eyes and lifted Lazarus out of the tomb. These were the hands that had danced in the air when he taught and reached out to touch lepers without pausing or holding back. These were the hands pulled them when they needed to walk forward and pushed them when they were troubled to step out and face their fears.
And these feet - these feet had carried him hundreds of miles to places where people were starving for food and good news. These feet had taken him on walks and marches; into the homes of criminals and corrupt bureaucrats, whom he treated like long lost friends.
They were all wounded now. The hands, the feet - all four of them broken and bruised and torn. And the Risen Christ wanted his disciples to look, because they had never looked before. He wanted them to see that in spite of the broken-ness of his hands and feet, the danger was past. He had gone through the danger and not around it. And it was his hands and his feet that bore the truth.
Your hands and your feet - what will be said of them? Will we be able to say they have been our mission partners? Will our feet guide us forward to stand, to walk, to march in faith? Will our hands be faithful in serving and in giving?
In 1931, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi spoke these words, "If we are to teach real peace in this world and we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children." Perhaps a million moms will inspire us to march by faith and not by sight.
Before the Risen Christ ascends in the Book of Acts, he says ". . .You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Our eyes or our voices will not be his witnesses in our culture of need. Rather, it is our hands and our feet. With these - we are still the body of Christ. As we turn to his table of grace, where we remember his breaking and sharing body and blood, may God guide our feet and our hands to be the body of Christ, now and forevermore. Amen.
Top of the Page