Texas UCC leader: ‘God is waiting for us to do something’
The night of a May 24 school attack that killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Tex., the Rev. Phil Hodson, Conference minister of the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ, offered this reflection. It appeared as a blog entry at the Conference website under the title, “Waiting on a Miracle.”
I have four sons. The oldest graduates from fourth grade this week, the next is finishing his second-grade year.
Disney movies are a tradition in our family. Watching one together is a fairly regular occurrence. They have been enamored of late by the film “Encanto.” There’s a song from the film, called “Waiting on a Miracle,” that has been playing in my head tonight. I’ve been thinking about that song as I reflect on what happened today in Uvalde.
As I write these words, it is being reported that 19 children and two teachers have lost their lives at the hands of an 18-year-old lone gunman in their classrooms at an elementary school. In the coming days, as you read these words, we may find those numbers change.
And I hear the cry of the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” How long will we continue to endure such horrific tragedy?
We send thoughts and prayers, and as one who believes in the power of prayer, I recognize the import of it in ordinary things. But this is an extraordinary thing. A tragedy that happens just a week after another shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. A tragedy that is only overtaken — in the sheer number of lives lost — by the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtwon, Conn., almost exactly 10 years ago.
I remember being invited to lead a time of prayer and conversation at the local elementary school where I was serving a church in Oklahoma just days after that shooting happened. And I remember quoting a beautiful line that somebody else wrote to open what I said: “The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels today.” And here we are again.
This morning I was at my own sons’ elementary school, watching my eldest give a speech on leadership as part of the awards ceremony for the fourth-grade class. Yesterday I was there to hear my 8-year-old read an original poem he wrote for his own second-grade awards ceremony. Both times I simply walked in the door, signed a form, got a name tag and proceeded to where I was supposed to be. I sat in an auditorium full of people I did not know — other parents and relatives — without a second glance. That’s one of the gifts of living in a free society — the ability to go where we please without fear.
But tonight, as I write these words, there is fear. The fear I experienced this afternoon as I stood outside and waited for my sons’ bus to arrive at the end of the driveway so that I could personally witness them coming back to me. Because my boys are the same ages as those 19 children who did not come home to their families tonight.
And crying out to God is not the answer. Because we only think we’re waiting for God to do something.
The reality is God is waiting for us to do something.
My son’s speech on leadership centered around three qualities he believes make a good leader: Responsibility, accountability and communication.
It seems to me that we, the church, have a role to play in situations like these when they arise. When chaos happens and there are no clear answers and lives are lost for no good reason, we are called to help people grieve. To help in mourning. To journey with those who suffer, and offer the love and compassion and grace that may witness to the fact that joy will, someday, come again into their lives. We are the witnesses to resurrection, to the worst thing never being the last thing. As followers of Jesus we are responsible to communicate that message, accountable to the Divine for our so doing.
So, tonight, as I write these words listening to my children sleep nearby, I sure wish our leaders would lead. In Texas. Nationally. We don’t need their thoughts and prayers; we, the church, will take care of that on their behalf.
We need them to lead. We need to hold them responsible to commonsense legislation that will protect our children. We need to hold them accountable to getting it done — that’s what elections are for. And we need to communicate that message with clarity and determination.
Because sometimes, when we’re waiting on a miracle, we forget that the miracle is us. Let’s do something.
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