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Feb 25th: Couragous Imagination, with Rev. Kally Elliott.

Posted: Sun, Feb 25, 2024
Couragous Imagination with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: Everyday Peacemakers A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9. Join Rev. Kally Elliott who will discuss the impact of gun violence on communities and individuals. She will share some personal experiences with gun violence and explore how we might prevent violence through peaceful means.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Kally Elliott


Couragous Imagination with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: Everyday Peacemakers A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9.

Join Rev. Kally Elliott who will discuss the impact of gun violence on communities and individuals. She will share some personal experiences with gun violence and explore how we might prevent violence through peaceful means.


Kally: We lived in inner city, Atlanta during the four years I was in seminary. One evening, a few months before we were to move to a new state. I looked outside my front window, and parked in front of my house was a van with the letters C S I crime scene investigation, printed boldly across its side. My neighbor’s yard was secured with yellow caution tape. I cared deeply about my neighbors Chris and Bev so I immediately poked my head out of my front door. What happened I called out. A teenage boy was shot in our front yard. drug deal gone bad. He was cutting through our yard when the bullet hit him. Chris, who was standing in the street yelled back. Deeply saddened, I shut my front door and went to check on my seven month old son who is asleep in his room. The room with windows staring directly into Chris and Bev’s yard, breaking the never wake a sleeping baby rule. I picked him up and I smelled His sweet head, heart pounding, grateful that no bullet had screamed through his window. This was my first experience with gun violence. A few minutes a few months later, I got to move from that neighborhood while listening to the joyful babble of my toddler son as we buckled him into his car seat, leaving behind another mother grieving never to hear the sound of her son’s voice again. Since that time, gun violence keeps creeping closer and closer. In 2008, I was sitting in church with my family at First Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, when we heard a mass shooting had just occurred at our neighboring Unitarian Church. As the congregation settled in to watch their youth perform the musical Annie Jr. A gunman opened fire, killing two and injuring six. In 2019, on the last day of the Jewish Passover holiday, a gunman fatally shot one woman and injured three others at Habad of Poway. A few streets away from the home in which I grew up. And then of course in August of 2022, a few days before, Ben lupine school district was set to start classes. A gunman shot and killed two people injuring two others before killing himself in our local Safeway, just a mile from our church sanctuary. In the manifesto released on social media, he admitted his deep isolation and loneliness. And of course, of course, it was our teenagers, the teenagers of our community, who found and read the manifesto before we adults could get our eyes on it. My 15 year old sat on our couch, tears in his eyes, fearful and heartbroken. Anyone with kids or grandkids these days know about the active shooter drills. They practice in school. Preschoolers through college kids practice hiding in closets so that they won’t get killed at school. And while the more nonchalant teenagers shrug their shoulders when asked about it, like it’s no big deal just part of life. I know several were pretty shaken up after last year’s threat at bend High School. For much of my life, I was able to talk about gun violence as if it happened to other people. That is not the case anymore. It’s right here in our sweet little mountain town Bend Oregon. In some ways, I think it snuck up on us. Our hearts growing more num one mass shooting one more news story about gang violence or a child who found his parents gun. One more suicide at a time. All is not well in our world. But since deep grief and outrage is too hard to feel all the time. We grow numb. And as we do gun violence creeps closer. Now I am under no illusion that we share the same exact feelings and beliefs about guns. I know that some of you are responsible gun owners and others are against possessing guns for any reason. In fact, I bet if we were to pull each person, we’d find as many different beliefs as there are people. But I do believe that each of us woke up this morning and turned on this TV or turned on our computer. We made the effort of getting here, because we are fueled by our faith to be part of healing this world. In this season of Lent, we are intentionally reflecting and reimagining how we might show up in the world as people who follow Jesus in the way of peace making. Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus taught his disciples in His Sermon on the Mount. And yet, they didn’t get it. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused and arrested. Peter, one of Jesus’s closest friends and disciples stood by his side, and in a moment of righteous indignation, of loyalty to his rabbi who he had left everything to follow. He pulled out his sword. After all, if you’re going to carry a sword you might have must be prepared to use it. And what better time than this it it was his duty, his honor to protect his friend and his teacher, Jesus. So Peter fought and it was over as quickly as it started with the sword unsheathed the flash of metal in the torch light, the Yelp of pain, the servant clutching his ear, or what was left of it, than the stern rebuke, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Jesus tells him we didn’t have guns in my house when I was growing up. Well, except for the toy guns. My Texas born brother carried in the plastic holster buckled around his waist. There is a picture of him at church singing his heart out in the children’s choir, red bow around his neck, gun and holster sticking out from beneath his little white choir rope. But other than toy guns and the guns we made out of sticks when playing cops and robbers. My family did not hunt or have any connection to guns. So it came as a shock to me when a couple of years ago, my brothers and my father went shopping for guns. We want a gun to protect ourselves if someone breaks in. We want a gun to defend our families and neighbors if the government tries to take over. These were the responses I got when I asked why, why they wanted a gun. And they are not alone. These are common responses to why people own guns. I could get into statistics that tell us that by owning a gun, you are actually more likely to harm yourself or someone you love. But in our world today, we all have our own statistics to prove our claim. What I’d like to suggest instead is that perhaps instead of acquiring more guns, to protect ourselves, we need a more courageous and spacious imagination. We need people who look at our current reality and can imagine another way, trusting that the God who is love will equip us to make a way where there is none. You may roll your eyes at me. How is a greater imagination going to keep me safe? Well, it probably is not. But perhaps that is the problem in the first place. We are so dang concerned with keeping ourselves safe. We live in constant fear. Shane Claiborne writes the continual need to have a larger rock than your brother turns into a catapult with a giant boulder which turns into a cannon ball and eventually, the explosive that propels the cannonball is put in the cannonball and called a bomb. And don’t forget, we miniaturized the cannon ball into a bullet to be placed into a weapon that can be held in the palm of our hand. There’s no room to imagine peace when our minds are consumed with fear and the next best way to keep ourselves safe.

Jesus reminds us that all who live by the sword Word, or the cannon ball or the gun will perish by the same. Even if the gun doesn’t actually kill us, our souls and our humanity will perish by our obsession to keep ourselves safe. The Gospel the way of Jesus never calls us to keep ourselves safe. Instead, it calls us to take up our cross, to be willing to lay down our lives, not in a martyr sort of way, but in a way that moves us from living in fear, to living for love and one another. So much easier said than done, though, which is why we need a more spacious imagination. Now, the prophets in the Bible, they were these guys mostly in the Hebrew Scriptures who dreamt big and poetically, they were known to be kind of strange and uncredentialed and without pedigree. The prophets imagined the reality of their world differently, naming those parts of their world order that were contradictory to God, imagining what it might look like should the will and purpose of God come to fruition, kind of like praying, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The prophets give us these poetic images such as one written in Isaiah, it says, Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation, and they will no longer learn how to make war, Isaiah two, four, the prophets were not trying to predict the future, but to change the present reality. And in doing so they invite us to dream of the world as it could be, and not just accept the world as it is. One thing the prophets and Jesus are clear about peace starts with us. We can’t wait for laws to change or others to make it happen for us. People are dying. 120 people die per day by gun violence. Part of our kids school curriculum is how to stay safe in a school shooting. Not if, but when. There’s a story in the Bible about a Jewish orphan who gets chosen to be Queen of Persia. But to save her people from a mandate to execute all Jews in the land, she must go to the king and speak against the killing. However, if she goes to the king, she could be the one to die. It’s a catch 22 for Queen Esther. But her uncle comes to her saying, Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house, you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. Perhaps you were made Queen for such a time as this. And so Esther speaks up, she goes to the king and speaks up to him and saving her people. Death is doing its work daily. But perhaps we are called for such a time as this. To imagine and live a life of peace of love a life in which like The prophets declared we turn death dealing weapons into instruments that bring life. Last fall our session or board of elders was tapped or they tasked a committee with imagining how our congregation might be involved in preventing gun violence. Working with our peace and justice team, we met with leaders from Antioch church to learn about an event they held in their parking lot last spring, called guns to gardens, during which 80 unwanted guns from our own community were turned in. Now these were unwanted guns. And so they were turned in dismantled and made into garden tools. guns to gardens started with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. So we a Presbyterian Church, we’re actually late to this conversation, intrigued by this movement in which death is true transformed into a life bringing tool. We accepted the invitation to join Antioch church in their guns to gardens event this April 27. Some who have heard have said, Does this really do anything to prevent gun violence? I mean, 80 guns isn’t making a dent in the amount of guns in our world. True. But I have to believe that by participating in such a life bringing event that we are transformed, that our imagined nations our imaginations are strengthened, our our hope is renewed, I have to believe that we are making a statement that violence and death does not have to be the final word. That instead there is another way a way of life. We need your help with this event. And we know you probably have many questions. That is why during the season of Lent, we are also offering a book study and dinner conversations around the topic of turning guns into garden tools. Please check your E News or call the church office for more information about the book study and dinners. Friends living in the peacemaking way of Jesus isn’t easy. I was so mad when my dad and my brothers went gun shopping. I mean, it would have been different if they hunted, but they don’t and they never have. None of them are what any of us would call sportsmen. And so I spoke up Why do you need a gun? Do you think Jesus would have a gun? It was not my most theologically intelligent conversation and I bumbled my way through, leaving totally frustrated that they couldn’t get it and I couldn’t explain it well, but I keep trying. I keep trying because Peace begins with us. It begins with people like us who refuse to kill and who insist on another way. People willing to imagine a world free of violence. The invitation is to put down your gun to turn it into a garden tool. Maybe you will grow something that feeds people. Might it be that we were made for such a time as this? Amen.

Related Ministries:

Online and Television Services, A Spacious Christianity
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