May 14th: Reducing Gun Violence, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
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Martin Luther King said Jesus calls us to be the Good Samaritan, lifting our beaten and wounded neighbors out of the ditch and bandaging their wounds. And we’re also called to do something about the dangerous road to Jericho, preventing the violence from happening in the first place. John Calvin, the founder of Presbyterianism in the 16th century, preached about God’s love on Sunday. And on Monday morning, he was working in the Geneva city council, putting love into action creating the very first child labor laws. At the heart, what it means to be a Presbyterian is to be engaged in the world with compassion, and courage to work for change. This weekend, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day started nearly 150 years ago when and Jarvis and Appalachian mother organized a day to raise awareness of children who were suffering from poor health conditions in her community. She believed rightly so that, that mothers were the only group that would get things done. And she called the day mother’s service day, and it became a yearly event advocating for the poor, and advocating for the health of children. And 15 years later, Julia Ward ha Boston poet, pacifist and suffragist organized a Mother’s Day Rally, encouraging mothers to unite and rally for peace. She believed mothers bore the loss of their children’s lives to violence more harshly than anyone else. And Jarvis’s daughter Anna launched a campaign asking politicians to, to create a special day to honor the selflessness, courage and, and service of mothers. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday. So Mother’s Day has its roots in advocating for the health of our children, calling for peace and an end to violence. So it seems appropriate we honor Mother’s Day this weekend, addressing the scourge of, of gun violence that has overcome our country. And that is traumatizing. Our children. Nelson Mandela said the we owe our children the most vulnerable citizens in any society. We owe our children a life free from violence and fear. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death of children in America. let that soak in for a minute. Gun violence is the leading cause of death of all children above cancer, car accidents, anything else? That’s sobering. You know, the common greeting of the Maasai tribe in Africa? Is because Syrian angry, which can be translated and how are the children before talking about the weather they have their health or, or any other topic. They first asked one another, about the welfare of the children they understand that we as a society are only well when our children are well. And how can our children possibly be okay? When they go to school feeling unsafe in their classroom, when they practice active shooter drills hiding under their desks when they are taught techniques to stop the bleeding when their classmates are shot. I can’t get out of my mind. The fact that mothers of children murdered in Uvalde, Texas, had to be swabbed for their DNA. Because their children were unrecognizable because of the military assault style weapon used to murder them. I’m a weapon made for one purpose, and one purpose only for soldiers in war to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible. A weapon that has no business, being on our streets, no business being in the hands of civilians. Yet in 2018 In 2003 20 years ago, ar 15 is the weapon of choice for most mass shootings consistent of less than 2% of gun sales. Jump ahead to 20 years later in 2023 AR fifteens account for 25% of gun sales 20 years ago in 2003, there were over 200 million weapons in our country 20 years later, in 2023. There are now over 400 million weapons. The availability and easy accessibility of guns has doubled. In just 20 years. Our country has changed. You know, it’s a sad day when New Zealand, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Uruguay have all issued travel warnings to the United States. Because it’s deemed not safe due to the magnitude of gun violence. James Madison, a father of the Constitution, one of the founding fathers, said this liberty can be a danger by the abuse of power. But Liberty can also be a danger by the abuse of liberty. And that’s exactly what’s happening. One person’s on regulated right to own however many and whatever guns they want, is being hailed as a higher value than the common good, a higher value than the safety of our children. You don’t need me to quote statistics to know that our children are not well. Our children are traumatized. And we as a society will never be well. Until our children are well. A journalist was covering the war and rush to a woman who was screaming for help. Who was holding a child who had been shot. Now the journalist helped the woman and the child into his car and they raced to the hospital with the woman in the backseat, pleading please hurry, my child, my child, she’s bleeding badly hurry. The child was taken into emergency surgery. But it was too late. And the woman turned to the journalist and said, Can you help me find this child’s mother so that we can tell her and supporter confused the journalist asked Mother, I thought you were the child’s mother. You kept saying my child. And the woman responded with the with the only words that have a chance to heal our traumatized and broken world she said they are all our children. Imagine imagine if we collectively understood there there is no such thing as other people’s children. They are all our children. I mean, what might actually change if we greeted one another. And before we talked about anything else before we talked about the weather sports are offered our opinions on politics. We actually asked one another how are the children? What might change? If every decision that was made by our leaders was made through the lens? Will this decision protect our children? Will this decision heal our traumatized children? Will this decision will move us closer to a life free from violence and fear for our children and ourselves. There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus Jesus is teaching about a new way of being in the world. And mothers, mothers were sneaking their children through the crowd hoping, hoping that Jesus might heal and bless their children.
Not to the disciples that the children are just During a nuisance, the children were an obstacle to Jesus being able to see the say the really important things to the really important people. So the disciples tried to shoo away they tried to remove the children, so that Jesus could continue talking about the serious business of building God’s kingdom, here on Earth. And Jesus says, Let the children come to Me. don’t prevent the children from coming to me, don’t allow anything to stand in the way of the children coming to be God’s kingdom belongs to children such as these. And then Jesus places his hands on the children. And he blesses them. letting these children know that their lives are sacred, that their lives are holy, that their lives matter. That’s our job. Our calling our holy work is Christ’s hands and feet and heart in the world. To bless the children, to not allow anything to get in the way of God’s children having a chance to grow up and a flourish. Our children are not well, our children, our children are traumatized. And we cannot be well until our children are well. You know, I know we’re tired after just yet another mass shooting of of hearing our leaders say, Oh, we offer our thoughts and prayers. And we’re quick to say you know, just prayers just aren’t enough prayers aren’t in that just prayers are inadequate. You know, I’m not sure I agree. We need prayer now. More than ever. But we need to be praying for ourselves. We need to be wrestling in prayer with what it actually means to be followers of Jesus. In times such as this, what does it mean to follow the one who says Blessed are the peacemakers. We don’t need more statistics, we don’t need more information. Information will not change us or the world. Information is not the same as transformation. We need to become substantively different people. If we’re going to build a world where our children are free from violence and fear. It takes courage to pray, to ask God to change us to heal us. To forgive us for our inaction to free us from fear to give us the imagination where we can actually see a world where children aren’t scared to go to school. To help us trust in the power of love to empower us to be the presence of love in the world. Prayer is not the substitute for action. Prayer grounding ourselves in love is the prerequisite for action. Reverend Ralph Warnock said we make a mockery of prayer if we’re not willing to pray with our feet and be part of the answer to our own prayers. When it comes to the magnitude of gun violence we may feel helpless but we are never ever powerless we can always choose love. Our children are not well. And we will not be well until our children oh well. No, we may actually we probably do hold very different views on guns. But hopefully we can be united and fueled in our faith by our common desire and our wish for our children to have a chance to grow up and to flourish. There’s a line from Star Wars The Last Jedi that I absolutely love. That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend than to ask ourselves what is the work of love? That is mind to do? Building a world where our children are free from violence and fear. May it be so