Lots of things in the news lately – from turmoil in Washington to elections to another storm in the northeast to bombings in Texas. But nothing has captured the attention of the nation like shootings in schools. And in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting in Florida, students have led the way to challenge the status quo on gun control, and have challenged us as adults to do more than talk.
The most recent shooting is, however, different. For me, at least. The shooting in Maryland earlier this week, which left the shooter dead and two students hurt (including one who is not expected to survive), is personal. That high school is two miles from the first church my Dad served in his ministry. In fact, my mother taught in that school (OK, that was over 60 years ago, but it was that school!). I wasn’t born there – I was born six months after my parents moved to New York City – but there is still a sense of belonging and connection. Lexington Park is a naval town, so there has been a lot of turnover and change, and a visit there ten years ago was a visit to a different community than my parents knew. But it was still Lexington Park. And today it is experiencing a lot of brokenness.
What’s the significance? I know our world is broken. We see it all the time. From shootings and international tensions, to hunger and poverty, to illness and natural disasters, there’s plenty of hurt and pain out there. And it’s easy to see – its all around. Just not here. Its always out there, somewhere else.
But the shooting in Lexington Park makes this different. This time it is MY world that is broken. Not some unknown place in Florida, or a city in a state I’ve never visited (Austin). No, I never lived there, and Lexington Park has changed, but there is still the possibility that one of the victims, one of the students now traumatized by a shooting in his or her own school, or even the perpetrator, is the grandchild of a couple my Dad married. Or maybe they attend the church my Dad served. This time it’s personal.
Not that I should really need Lexington Park to see personal brokenness. I might like to think that all is well, but my own corner of the world has its own brokenness. I’ve got my fears and anxieties, failures and sinfulness. Like everyone else, I work hard to hide my flaws, and I pretend all is well. It isn’t. I need something, anything, that can redeem the broken world around me, and restore my weary soul.
But Lexington Park blows up my illusion that somehow all that big time brokenness is someone else’s problem. It couldn’t happen here, it doesn’t really affect me, it’s just something I see in the news. Lexington Park makes it really apparent – it is not just the world around me that is broken, it is my world – and it is me – that is broken. And broken as I am, broken as my world is, I really do desperately need my world, MY WORLD, to be redeemed. And my soul restored. Big time!
That is what next week, Holy Week, is about. It is about God acting, in a deeply mystical, spiritual, and sacrificial way, to redeem a broken world. To take a world that is full of sin, ugliness, pain and sorrow, and to redeem it and make it holy again. And as God does that, God restores broken people – people in Florida, Austin, Lexington Park, even in Washington. Even me.
The importance of Lexington Park, for me at least, is the reminder that just as the brokenness really hits home, so does the gift of grace. God’s gift of grace and life in the crucified Jesus is about me and real life. Its not an abstract, theological construct, or something for people far, far away. It is about local stuff, it is about me. It exposes my fears and my vulnerabilities. It calls me to accountability for the times – the many times – I have failed to live faithfully.
Yet the cross doesn’t stop there. Yes, it exposes and calls to me accountability, but it also embraces and holds me. As I shudder, filled with anxiety, apprehension, and uncertainty, the cross comforts me, rekindles in me God’s gifts of life, and then challenges me to live life faithfully. I am sent out as a disciple of the one who has given me new life. I go out into the world filled with confidence, not in myself, but in Jesus working in and through me.
That’s why next week is not just about remembering events almost 2000 years ago on the other side of the planet. Its about what is happening right here – in the places in the headlines, and in other places that rarely make the news. Even in West Salem.
For me, that’s what Lexington Park .makes crystal clear You may not have such a place, but you do have such a Savior. Embraced by the cross, may you too be comforted, rekindled and challenged. And my you too go out with confidence, as a faithful disciple of the crucified – and risen – Jesus!