The Rt Rev Ian Douglas comments on the religious questions in the face of the horror of the Sandy Hook killings. Sunday School Director Sue Vogelman speaks to CNN about answering children’s questions and praying with them. From Episcopal News Service::
Pulling into the filling station on my way to Newtown in the early afternoon last Friday, the woman at the gas pump next to me asked: “How do we make sense of all of this?” She was a young mother, with tears in her eyes, on her way to our local elementary school to collect her children. She noticed my clerical collar and felt free to engage me about the horror and tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
My response to the young mother’s question was that there was no way we could make sense of what had happened. No explanation or rationale could assuage our shock, pain and grief. As a religious leader, I knew that my job was not to try and make sense of what had happened. Rather my job was to be there, simply be there, with those who had lost loved ones in the terrible rampage.
The second question everyone seems to be asking me as a religious leader is: “How could God let this happen?” For me, God is not some distant puppeteer controlling the strings of our lives and actions. No, God is a loving creator who continually offers us the gift of life and love. Our creator God is always with us, accompanying us in the joys and the sorrows of our daily lives. In this season of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for Christmas, we Christians look forward to the coming of Emmanuel. Emmanuel means God-with-us.
And this God who is with us, the Christ-child, is not a God insulated from the hurt and pain of the world. No, Emmanuel is a God who knows suffering; who was born to a homeless teenage mom and whose birth was attended by barn animals and marginalized sheep tenders. This God-with-us and his parents would then become refugees in Egypt to escape the slaughter of other innocent children at the hand of King Herod. And the same God-with-us, Jesus, would die a torturous death upon the cross as a religious and political revolutionary. We Christians, however, hold onto the truth that three days later Jesus rose from the dead. When confronted with the question “How could God let this happen?” we can proclaim that God is a God who is with us, who suffers with us, and who embodies the promise and reality of new life in the face of death.
The final question is the same inquiry asked of John the Baptist, heard yesterday in the Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday in Advent. As he preached the need for repentance, those who came to John asked: “What then should we do?” What then, what now, should we do?
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CNN reports on one of the Sunday school teachers answering children’s questions. Sue Vogelman, Trinity Episcopal church school director, prays with students who lost friends in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and copes with her own grief.