We will never get over what has happened – children were killed, our hearts have been broken, and an image of our hometown has been shattered – but as I said Thursday evening my hope and belief, and even my experience, are that we can get through this. I am reminded of that every time I hear someone ask, “What can we do?”
That just might be the most frequent and urgent question I’m being asked these days. It’s a question I’ve asked myself again and again. Maybe you have too.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked that question. I’ve had phone calls, e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages asking, “What can we do?” I suspect you have too. It’s been asked by people I know and people I’ve never met. I’ve heard it asked here at St. Philip’s, around Uvalde, and from people across our nation and the world.
My guess is that those outside of Uvalde who ask that question do so as an expression of love, compassion, and support for you and me, for the families whose children died, for Uvalde. But for those who are here living this tragedy daily it has a different meaning and it’s about more than seeking information about what to do.
At a deeper level that question expresses our feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. And those feelings are real. I feel them, and I know you do too. We all have, and how could we not?
At a deeper level that question also expresses our hope that we will get through this, that there is a way forward, and that we are more than what has happened to us.
Hope and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness are not contradictions. Hope is never more real than when it is expressed, sought, and embodied in times of helplessness and powerlessness.
So what can we do? It’s a good question and in some ways it’s not that hard to answer. We know what to do. We love, we hug, we reach out to and check on each other. We show up and be present. We share tears and anger. We donate money, bring food, and take care of daily needs. We listen to each other, provide counseling, form support groups. We be gentle with each other and ourselves. We remember. We grieve and we live in hope. We pray. That is happening and I don’t want us to stop.
But I think there may be a better question, albeit a more to difficult one, for us to be asking: “What more can we do?” That “more” is at the heart of Jesus’ gospel. He was always living into, demonstrating, and calling us into the “more.”
- When Jesus preached the beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are the meek,” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers – he was preaching about the “more.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
- When he turned water into wine he transformed the “less” into the “more.” (John 2:1-11)
- All those times when he said, “You have heard that it was said ____, but I say to you ____,” he was choosing the “more” over the “less.” (Matthew 5:21-28)
- When the disciples spoke sternly to those who brought children to Jesus and he said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them,’” he was opening himself to and welcoming the “more.” (Matthew 19:13-15)
- When Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you,” he was offering her the “more.” (John 8:3-11)
The “more” that I’m speaking of is not about a quantity. It’s about a way of life, our values, and our priorities. It’s about who and how we want to be and not just about what we do.
Everything has been called into question by what happened last Tuesday and I can no longer look at my life in the same way. If today I am holding the same positions, keeping the same stances, maintaining the same priorities as I did Monday night when I went to bed; if I am not examining my life and values; if I am not reconsidering my priorities; if I am not considering new questions or points of view about poverty, mental health care, racism, gun violence; then I am not seeking or working out of the “more.” And if none of that has started for you the past week, if nothing about those things is changing or at least opening to change, you might want to ask yourself whether you are seeking the “more” or the “less.”
If we get through what has happened to Uvalde and nothing changes, if we just keep doing what we did before, if we hold the same values and priorities as we did when we went to bed Monday night, then we are settling for the “less.”
I don’t want to settle for the “less” and I hope you don’t either. That’s not what I want for myself, you, St. Philip’s, or Uvalde. I don’t want us to live in the “less.” I want us to choose, live in, and become the “more.”
And I wonder what the “more” is for you today. What would it look like for you and me to choose and embody the “more”? What “more” will you and I commit to? I don’t want us to just believe in Jesus, I want us to follow Jesus into the “more” for the sake of those who died, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, for the sake of Uvalde. Let’s choose the “more.”
What can we do? It’s the right question to start with. But let’s not stop there. I want us to let that question open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the “more.”
What “more” will you and I do?