Message: The Sunday After the School Shooting, Repent and Believe the Gospel
Scriptures: Genesis 3:19; Mark 1:15
Offered 2/18/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida, the Sunday after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.
Victims of the School Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL. 17 murdered, 15 more injured
Chris Hixon, 49
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Gina Montalto, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Martin Duque, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Alex Schachter, 14
Peter Wong, 15
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Cara Loughran, 14
Luke Hoyer, 15
I’ve been haunted by the picture of a woman holding another woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead. The school shooting occurred Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. This woman had been to worship earlier in the day with no idea how her day would end.
As the ashes were applied to her forehead, this is what she heard, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
Remember you are earthy, humus. Remember God gave you the gift of life, that you are made in the image of God, that you are strong, gifted, and beloved of God.
Remember it with humility, for you are humus, human. You are just like everyone else. You are frail, mortal. You are capable of great love and great sin.
The online mass shooting tracker defines mass murder as 3 or more people murdered in one event. They define a mass shooting as 4 or more people shot in a single shooting spree.
From January 1- February 17, 2018, the first 48 days of the year, there have been 43 mass shootings. 83 persons were killed and 151 persons wounded.
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent…
We wear ashes to remind us of our mortality, our frailty, our humanness, and our need for humility. The ashes also remind us of sackcloth and ashes. In the scriptures, persons would wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of freedom. They would also wear sackcloth and ashes when they were grieving their sin.
My intentional inventory related to all these shootings. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness.
- I repent of sympathizing with the bereaved families and then too quickly moving on
- I repent of offering “thoughts and prayers” which cost me nothing instead of risking and caring and working for peace
- Faith without works is dead
- Sermons without action is hypocrisy
- I repent of my participation in our culture of death
- The violence I tolerate in the name of entertainment
- The weapons I tolerate in the name of safety and freedom
- The hard conversations about guns and children I am afraid to have, afraid to lead in our church family because there’s already enough pain in my life, and I don’t want to add more
- I repent of the harm I do to others
- With my words and with my silence
- With my actions and with my inaction
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe…
- I don’t have to become numb or overwhelmed in the face of wave after wave of violence
- That we can all have safe schools
- That we can all have access to great mental health care provided by gifted professionals
- That it is my responsibility to hold our leaders accountable and to help them be courageous
- That we can have honest, faithful conversations on difficult topics and still remain brothers and sisters in Christ
- That we can/must lay aside our divisions to end the plague of gun violence
Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return: time is short and valuable, life is valuable. Repent: there is time to turn in a new direction, that new direction is toward God.
I don’t just believe, I believe in the Gospel
- God is good. God is strong. God is love.
- Our Jesus, the One who healed, taught, prayed for us, understands our pain because he was tortured and murdered, senselessly, unjustly.
- And our Jesus rose victorious, our Savior and Lord, our Peace, our Hope
I claim the Gospel, the power of the cross and resurrection
- That breaks the power of grief, despair, and death itself
- That breaks the cycle of violence, retaliation, fear, apathy
I claim the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me
- To speak the truth in love, to work for the common good, to pray and to act
- To seek the wisdom of Almighty God to end the bloodshed because Jesus shed enough for all of us
Ann Voskamp testimony from her blog post
When I stand in the kitchen, stacking dishes on the third day of Lent, our littlest girl flies by me on her wooden push bike, “Looooveeeee you.”
And a heart hurting for a hurting world, I mutter it more to her than to me,
“What in this world does love even mean?”
And our little girl comes to a full stop. Slides off her little Red Rider. And comes back to me.
“You wanna know what Love means?”
She cocks her head, parrots back my words in her high-pitched 3-year-old lisp.
And I look over to her standing there in her mismatched socks and a lopsided ponytail.
“I know what love means, Mama!” She gently laughs like a laying on of hands that heals the rawest wounds.
“Love means this —— “ And she flings her arms open as wide as they can reach.
That wisp of a 3-year-old girl, she’s standing there with her arms stretched wide open — cruciform. Not wearing a cross on her forehead — yet making all of her — arms, hands, body — into a cross. “Yeah, you’re right baby girl — Love means exactly this.”
Remember You are Dust and to Dust, You Shall Return (Genesis 3:19)
Repent and Believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15)
An Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.
In this way, the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Jesus Christ and His Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination, and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
by acts of generosity, compassion, peacemaking, and service;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now come and bow before our Creator and Redeemer.
Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Imposition of Ashes
Persons are invited forward to receive ashes on their forehead and kneel in confession. The following words are traditionally spoken by those applying the ashes as the ashes are received
Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)
Repent, and believe the gospel.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.