A lament from the Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, following the Munich shooting.
You know, God, that I am tired, I am sick and tired, of regularly writing these reflections. I do so because I am bishop for these lands. My heart goes out once again to a city battered and mauled by a kid with a gun. A few days ago, another town, Würzburg, and a boy with an axe. Last week it was a guy with a truck. Before that, with a knife, killing a mother and father in front of their three-year-old son. Before that, it was Brussels. And Paris. And Paris. And Toulouse.
Not to mention, Lord, what’s happening in my country of origin, my homeland. Baton Rouge, Dallas, Orlando, San Bernardino. And the land I visited in 2003, that you brought me to just before the war, that stupid war. Baghdad, I want to go back, but I can’t. And Turkey and Bangladesh. And the horror that is Saudi Arabia. I have friends, real friends, who are Muslim faithful, imams, even an ayatollah or two. And they are dying too. For what?
Everywhere, O God of my salvation, is blood. Everywhere, the wailing of families bereft of loved ones and homes. The courage of first responders who throw themselves into the breech. The fear of the rest of us. The streams of humanity, people like us, fleeing home and hearth for a life, any life, in Europe. In America. Canada. Australia. And a few who act out, like in Cologne. Or this kid in Munich.
Munich, Germany’s most beautiful major city, where we worship you every Sunday, thanks to a Lutheran congregation that hosts us. Will the Germans now close that transit camp I visited in May, so clean and orderly as is their wont, cutting off more thousands who need to come? The shameful deal we cut with Turkey has stopped people going to Greece, but increased people coming to Italy. And our refugee centre in Rome, the only daytime centre in the Eternal City, now how many more will it have to serve?
Do you not hear the cries of your children, O God? Have you turned a deaf ear to our petitions? Let my cry come to you, O Lord! How long? How much longer must this so-called Islamic State continue to exist? When will you bring Boko Haram and all the other imitators to an end? What about the persecutors and the persecuted elsewhere in the world? In India and Indonesia. In Pakistan and Thailand and Myanmar. How many more million Congolese are going to die? How long, O Lord, how long?!
As one of the teachers you sent has said, we need to distinguish between optimism and hope. Optimism is passive, hope is active. It takes courage. The prophets of Israel, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself, were not optimists. But they looked to You in hope. So we have set our hope on you, O God, for there is none other left. We have put our trust in Jesus. We believe you have drenched us in your Holy Spirit. And therefore nothing — no terrorist, no Da’esh, no gun or bomb or butcher’s knife — can separate us from your love for us in Christ Jesus.
Show us your love and mercy again. Please, I don’t want to write more reflections like this. And come to our aid. Give us courage to hope. Strengthen our faith. Empower us to overcome fear. Enable us to transform this world you have given us. To stanch the endless flow of blood. To give hope to the hopeless and to care for the helpless. To let no one, including our very selves, stand in the way of peace.
“Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again rejoicing, shouldering their sheaves.”
May it be so for us, now, O God of our weary years. For we ask this in the Name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.