What then should we do?

  • Posted on Dec 17, 2012

And the crowds asked Jesus, “What then should we do?”  Luke 3:10

By the time I got to Sunday morning, all I could do was go to church.  And not because that’s my job, but because I didn’t know how else to live with the knowledge of the tragedy in Sandy Hook in my mind and spirit.  When the loss and grief have been overwhelming throughout my life, the only place that has given me some small sense of peace is the church.  

On another day of unspeakable horrors, on September 11, 2001 and the days following, I found myself in the sacred space of Memorial Church again and again.  When I returned to church that day after picking up my children from school, all I knew to do was to go into the church proper and open the Book of Common Prayer.  That noon, a small group gathered in the chapel and prayed the Great Litany.  On that day, I didn’t have any words.  What I needed was the generations of Christians who had struggled with suffering and tragedy.  I needed their words.  I yearned for the tradition which gave me the words to say when I had no words. 

This very simple truth–that when met with suffering in life, I go to church and pray the prayers that God’s grace has blessed us with for generations–has been true throughout my life.  That was true the day of my mother’s funeral when at age 13, I couldn’t imagine what my days could hold in the future with such a gaping hole in my heart.  On that day in Christ Church, Alexandria, I was enfolded by the gathered community—afraid to look up at the coffin, at the clergy.  But I heard the familiar words and hymns course through me body and soul and I felt some light coming back into my grieving, confused soul.  Some 20 years later, I found myself in that same place as we celebrated the life of my father.  Again, I wondered how my world could possibly go on without him.  And again, the prayers and music of the Episcopal Church flowed over me, around me, within me.  I could live another day.  I could love once again.  I hadn’t really been back to church for years that day, but I knew that church was the only place I could find the great love that now seemed gone from my life.  And the grace that enfolded me was this—the love of my parents that I thought was now gone could be found in the church community as we gathered together in worship.  God’s love, my parents’ love–forever accessible in that gathered Body of Christ.

So when this Friday happened, how could I do anything else but find my community of love and prayer?

On Sunday, the weight of the suffering was heavy on my soul.  As the morning moved from the Faith @ 8 community, Christian formation, and the 10:30 service, I felt light move into my inner darkness.  As the youngest among us came towards me with hope and outstretched hands in the line for communion, I found myself smiling.  As the families gathered around me to pray for our children and youth, I felt hope again.  

The simple truth is that it is only by showing up and being present in community that the light overcomes the darkness—the darkness within and without.  And showing up in our community of faith matters.  Not just for our own souls, but for the souls of all the folks that gather to pray to God that day.  This Christmas season, if you have a community of faith, show up.  Be present.  It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been there for a few months or years or decades. And if you don’t have a community of faith, just give it a try.  Your presence matters.  It matters to all the gathered.  It matters to God.  And it matters to our world.

What must we do?  Show up.  Be present.  Love.  Pray in Community. One day at a time.


Prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for our Children and Youth:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children:  Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world:  Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals.  Help them to take failure not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start.  Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

                             Book of Common Prayer, p.  829

Join us at Memorial Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve at 5 pm or 10:30 pm.  Our Christmas Day service is at 10 am.  For more information, visit our website at   Christmastide blessings, Mother Martha+


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