A Sacrament of Tears
On Friday morning I woke to another story of violence – you did too. A shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, CO. Many dead, many more wounded, and many many more once again confronted with tragedy. However I didn’t weep. I didn’t feel bad that I didn’t weep… in fact if in full confession I would have been surprised at the expectation to weep, stories of violence are absolutely everywhere. And I’m hardly the first to reflect on our lack of surprise, or the way we have become de-sensitized to violence. But I received a needed and necessary gift that very night that spurred this reflection…
My family was over at a friend’s house for dinner and conversation. It was a meal about thanksgivings and good-byes. As the kids got restless… okay more restless than they naturally are, we decided to turn on the TV and find some cartoons to distract the kids. As we often do they turned on the TV and then started flipping through the TV guide menu to find cartoons and like most TVs this meant you could still see the show that was on in the background. It turned out to be an episode of America’s Most Wanted. None of us really triggered much on it. I remember hearing the actor speaking in that fake panicked voice that seems to be a prerequisite of every episode of America’s Most Wanted. The girl was in the police station saying her friend had been killed by her friend’s boyfriend. She said she had found her friend with a bag over her head… and then the show had a visual flashback to the girl stooped over her friend’s bloody body in the garage and then a brief encountered with the blood soaked boyfriend holding a gun. We got the channel changed… but the one person in the room that saw and heard it all with completely rapt attention was Warren. (The kid really doesn’t miss anything.) My seven year old very sensitive and loving son spent the next thirty minutes or so in tears. Sobbing at certain points. Questioning at others. Was it real… what had she done wrong… why had she been killed if she did nothing wrong????
I do not seek to shelter him… I also do not need him to grow up any sooner than the world will make him. That day the world made him grow up a bit. I didn’t dodge any questions. We talked quietly about it. We lit candles in memory… we said a prayer. We spoke of grief and fear.
What was remarkable to me about this is not that he was scared. It was that more than scared he was deeply sad… sad that she had died… sad for the senselessness of her death that could make no sense to him for there was none to be found. He was weeping for her… or really for the person that some actor (who really is hardly good enough to be called an actor) was portraying.
Now fast forward to last night’s Sunset worship service. We always celebrate communion at that service just following the sermon. The sermon was part of a series on Ephesians and the preacher ended talking about needing to fall on our knees in prayer for the world in the wake of unspeakable violence. I looked at the table and the image of Warren’s tears came to mind superimposed before the table that held bread and cup. Then it came to me that we grow callouses to violence… whether it’s the violence of a shovel to our hands, or a visual assault of tragedy before our eyes. We become calloused to violence – and Warren has no such callouses… which is hard on him. But I also believe it is how Christ calls us to be in the world, to not let our heart be hardened. We are not meant to be calloused people. We are meant to weep in the wake of tragedy… and we are meant to weep with those who are weeping. And then I heard Jesus’ words, “This is my body broken for you.” And I realized that the Table is about breaking callouses and opening our hearts. Breaking our callouses that we might weep… that we will bleed… that we will mourn, and doing this in remembrance of one who did all this for us as well.
It’s hard to open ourselves to this kind of heartache. We are far too interested in protecting ourselves from harm. But in the breaking of bread we also testify to something else, another truth as well. That which is broken will not stay that way. Tears will be wiped away. The broken will be made whole. That if the each of us is willing to allow our hearts to break for one another than there is yet hope for a world gone mad with self-interest, violence, and hate.
This is my heart, broken for you – do this in remembrance of me. These are my tears, shed for all people – do this for the healing of the world.