Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bye Bye Miss American Pie

Bye Bye Miss American Pie
Reflecting on the Tragedy at Aurora, Colorado

It was a dangerous neighborhood where I grew up. The walk from my house to school took me by way of Bowers Ave, which was really a solitary alley tucked away from view and anything could happen there. I learned to walk down the center of that alley so at least I had a good chance to run away or protect myself. We learned that the O’Connors and the Flynns carried knives and to avoid them. We roamed the streets in gangs for protection. By the way we called our gang the “Cottage Ave Sports Club”, which tells you at least about our intentions as children of a significantly more innocent age.
All this was before the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. It was all before the shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now of course, most recently, most tragically yet again, at a Multiplex in Aurora, Colorado. 
There is a famous folk song that many of you will remember; “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie.” It is an elegiac lament of our fall from innocence as a nation and as a culture. The dangers I grew up with in an inner-city neighborhood made some sense on some level. After all, it was the city. But since that time there have been an increasing number of senseless acts of violence in schools, in shopping centers, and now in movie theaters. They catch us off guard, terrified, and our innocence takes on yet another Great Fall.
It is as if our expulsion from the Garden of Eden has taken on another layer of meaning and we find ourselves newly aware of the real and ominous meaning of Sin. Our lives are indeed vulnerable. There is a force called Evil, and it can become personified in persons and in actions that seek to destroy the creatures of God. And those creatures are the ones we love.
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus saw the crowd and his heart went out to them in compassion, because they were like Sheep without a Shepherd. God knows those kids in Theatre 9 were just there for fun. but they were like Sheep without a Shepherd. they didn’t know what to make of it at first. Perhaps it was just part of the hype. But all too soon the horror of it became all too clear. Many of the victims spoke of prayer and faith, more than one spoke of their willingness to take a bullet for a friend and indeed some did. 
The nation stops now to take time for prayer and meditation.
The Gospel goes on to say that the crowd rushed up to him, and begged and pleaded with him for a healing touch. And we are told that he did touch them and he did heal them.
Where is there healing for us?
The Police were reduced to tears doing their job. The medical community mobilized itself in seven or more hospitals. Social workers and trauma teams staged a victim service center. The bomb squad was called in. There will be a memorial service. And then there will be the embrace of loved ones whose touch will indeed bring the healing touch of love to each other. The Compassion of God and humanity embraced and the healing began.

But what of this dark deed? There is this thought. The Dark Side in popular Mythology is getting very dark indeed. From the epic struggle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to the same between Batman and the Joker, the parallel struggle we engage in within ourselves gets deeper and deeper too, and goes into an area of the human psyche that is indeed very dangerous.
That’s the Dark Side of things. 
Jesus said; “I am the Light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness”.
There are only two ways to live; the way that leads to Light and Life and the way that leads to Dark and Death. The choice is always before us to make day in and day out, moment in and moment out.
Please let me hasten to say, most of us can go to the movies, watch TV, play Video Games, read a book, and engage in other art forms without going crazy and acting out some kind of psychotic episode. I rented the Three Stooges the other night and laughed out loud. I also watched them as a child and delighted in their slapstick antics and yet I am not one to go around poking people in the eyes.
But there is a Dangerous Darkness within that can be quite seductive and it is incumbent upon us to Renounce it. As the Prophet says in today’s first lesson; “Woe to the Shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!”
In our Baptism we renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of evil that rebel against God. We also renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. And we renounce those sinful desires that draw us away from the love of God.
These are what we call the three Renunciations. That’s the easy part of Baptism as a matter of fact. Even the news channels can get a handle on what’s wrong. After all, it was Churchill who once said; “Any fool can tell you what’s wrong!”
Make no mistake about it, both the Popular and Biblical Mythologies are real They are real because they describea a battle that goes on within ourselves. And if we don’t realize how dangerous the Darkness is we risk losing sight of the Light . Turn to the Light!

What then do we do? Do you know what the three Affirmation of Baptism are? Of course you do.
First; turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your savior. He is what we have known and experienced from the beginning as the Love of God made Flesh and Blood in human form.
Secondly, put your whole trust in his Grace and Love. They will carry you through every trauma, disappointment, discouragement, and even death itself. 
And thirdly promise to follow and obey him every day of your life. He will Light the way down every Path you take in Life.
The Good Shepherd stands in our midst. God knows how often we walk down the dark and lonely alley ways of life. But those sacred words come to us in times like that; “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” ~Psalm 23.
The Church uses the following formula to help us articulate these very Renunciations, Affirmations and our Baptismal Covenant in our Baptism Service. Given recent events, it seems appropriate for us to recite them now. These statements are at the heart of our faith.

The Renunciations

Question     Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
                of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer        I renounce them.

Question     Do you renounce the evil powers of this world
                which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer        I renounce them.

Question     Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you
                from the love of God?
Answer        I renounce them.
The Affirmations
Question     Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your
Answer        I do.
Question     Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer        I do.
 Question     Do you promise to follow and obey him as your
Answer       I do. 
The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant      Do you believe in God the Father?
People          I believe in God, the Father almighty,
                 creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant      Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People          I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
                    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
                        and born of the Virgin Mary.
                    He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
                        was crucified, died, and was buried.
                    He descended to the dead.
                    On the third day he rose again.
                    He ascended into heaven,
                        and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
                    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

     Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People          I believe in the Holy Spirit,
                    the holy catholic Church,
                    the communion of saints,
                    the forgiveness of sins,
                    the resurrection of the body,
                    and the life everlasting.
Celebrant      Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
                 fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
People          I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant      Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
                 you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People          I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant     Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
                 News of God in Christ?
People          I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant      Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
                 your neighbor as yourself?
People          I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant      Will you strive for justice and peace among all
                 people, and respect the dignity of every human
People          I will, with God’s help.

No comments: