March 1/2015 Lent
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-19 & Mark 8; 31-38
“THE SELF and the SELFLESS”
So what is a self?
My – self
Your – self
Our – selves
Them – selves
His – self / Her – self
What is the or a self?
What is it, whether its his or hers or ours; or just a lonely self, wandering around without the prefix that would make it a proper reflexive pronoun.
This self of ours, no matter how we describe it, or how we think about it, or how we avoid it for that matter –
is the center of our God consciousness among many, many other things.
That we talk so much about it should give us a hint as to its importance.
How many of us have taken the time and invested the energy to deliberately try and touch that most private, most solitary, most fragile and vulnerable self-awareness that is at our core?
It is that self – that search for the core being that was central to my pilgrimage to Iona.
What does it mean to be self possessed or possessed-of-self?
What does it mean to have possession of who you are?
Is that even possible?
These and a few other questions will accompany us on our Lenten journey together and I remind you again this week as I did last that as we seek:
that no matter how lost you feel,
no matter how disconnected,
no matter how disoriented and alone —
God’s love and a table experience
like that we shared last Sunday is always,
and easily within your grasp.
Last week we talked about the very real sense of being lost that we often experience. This morning we wonder how we can keep our bearings when there are competing-selves within us grasping for our attention.
It is interesting to look at today’s Gospel and Old Testament readings together.
There we have Jesus calling us to lose our lives in order to save them
and on the other hand Abraham who must have broken out laughing at God's promises to him because they seem so unlikely.
We……. live with the severe puritanical heritage that Anglo-Saxon Protestants have naturally, overlaid by the sternly undemonstrative expectations of the Victorian era –
What a refreshing and wonderfully Jewish thing it is to laugh at God - Jews are so direct and honest with God! The Psalms……
But, is it not true that sometimes when we take a chance and dare to live fully in ways that seem dangerous to us, we are wonderfully surprised by what God adds to our lives?
God loves people who dare to live as though a larger and different life is possible, as though we can trust God so much that,
in effect, we step off the cliffs of life and then find ourselves flying.
Is that the way people around us see Christians?
Read; Mark 8: 31-38
This one passage contains four of the most memorable one-liners that Jesus has provided us with.
"Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." (On the desires of your human self)
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves (Deny their self) and take up their cross and follow me”.
“For those who want to save their life (their self) will lose it, and those who lose their life (their self) for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it (gain a more Godly one)”.
“For what will it profit them to gain the whole world (which is the desire of your human self) and forfeit their life?”
This is a difficult issue. It would seem that we may have
more than one self. Well we may, and we very often do,
but we try not to. We try especially hard not to be more than one self at the same time. And for those who find that the have consistently more than one self at the same time, modern medical help is available.
I have most certainly been more than one person over the course of my lifetime. In fact it was only those who were closest to me that were not surprised when I answered the call to ministry.
Sometimes we have selves that are hidden to those around us
and sometimes hidden even to ourselves.
So then it comes down to choosing between the selves that already reside within us. How do we do that?
Well as Christians we have our faith, it must have answers!
My favourite cartoon is BC …
In an old cartoon, B.C. is down on his knees. “God,” he says,
“If you’re up there, give me a sign.” Suddenly something falls from the Heavens right in front of him. A neon sign flashing, “I’m up here!”
If only faith were that easy!
If only God could give us a sign once and for all!
If only it meant simply an intellectual grasp, an understanding, without worrying about its moment by moment connection to our daily lives!
If only it meant never doubting!
But the problem is that real faith involves passion.
It involves entering a relationship with God.
It involves giving one’s heart to God.
It involves engaging actively with love.
It means having enough confidence in the relationship’s reality to act on it, as incredible as it may seem.
And in the end, the way we come to faith is by trusting in the promises of God.
Faith is in fact trust.
We look at our past, and we see where God has been at work in our lives, where we can identify God’s presence and we use that knowledge, that understanding, to bring meaning to our existence.
And that of course is the first step to bringing meaning to ones life.
God gifted us with reason and it is an essential ingredient in our faith.
Now this all seems fine until we come to the difficult choices and tests of life.
When we face times of tragedy, everything we know about faith can simply vanish.
How do we achieve a vision of faith that sustains us through such times?
The reality of the cross and the Easter moment is that needs to be behind everything that we do to give us that sense of wholeness, of holiness, that carries us when nothing else will.
Abraham had to come to that point. At the age of ninety, he questioned the possibility of making a covenant with God.
“How can I,” he asks, “believe that at my age I can still become the ancestor of a multitude of nations?” He is asked to simply believe that God keeps promises. God has made that promise to Abram and sealed it with a new name. God promises also that Sarah, will bear a son. Abraham takes God’s word and makes that commitment.
He embraces the gift that God has promised.
And of course, God makes good on the promise.
Abraham and Sara experienced such profound change in their sense of self that they required new names.
Jesus reminds his disciples of the cost of following him. Jesus is always reminding the disciples that this will be no picnic.
It is a reminder of what living in covenant with God means.
He reminds them that it begins with denying themselves,
taking up the cross and following him;
but, as soon as Jesus begins to talk about cost, about the possibility of suffering, rejection and ultimately death, the disciples change their tune.
They, like we, prefer to hear the comfortable words.
But when it comes to cross bearing or rejection of sin, then they miss the real point of their faith.
Let’s face it!
Self-denial is not big on any of our lists.
We have all kinds of questions about what it means.
Is it a matter of not doing what I want to do for a while during Lent,
and then going back to it afterward?
Is it about putting myself down? Self-flagilation?
Or self criticism?
Or being submissive?
What are the rules anyway?
Why should we “give up” during the season of Lent, or indeed at any time?
The cross and the Easter promise of constant and everlasting forgiveness, resurrection and renewal are at the heart of our Christian faith. We were signed with the sign of the cross at Baptism.
What did it mean for us, both as individuals and as a community?
Those sacred moments helps us to understand that dying is the step we must take in order to really live.
It reminds us that we are called to offer the innermost self to be formed by God for God’s purposes.
Self-denial, then, is about an alternative way of being. It is not simply about giving up chocolate or Bingo, for the sake of giving up something.
It is not about stopping for a short period, like Lent and then returning to the same way of being.
It is a challenge to want something different.
It is a challenge to want to be something different.
Instead of thinking only of ourselves we are challenged to be generous.
We are challenged to give of ourselves, even when it may mean suffering on our part.
We are reminded that all of that comes at a cost! There are times when love, if it is to mean anything, will expose us to grave danger,
and we are challenged nevertheless to embrace the way of Jesus.
And in doing so, we will find ourselves.
We will become truly human.
Christ’s message is inescapable.
Self-denial is not about the good it does for me. The sort of giving up that works best is that which has a deeper purpose behind it.
If you want to give to others, it will almost always involve giving up something you would rather keep for yourself.
Caring for a sick or elderly relative will almost certainly involve a loss of time and freedom.
Yet that may be what God is calling you to do. Being a good steward of God’s creation may mean taking the time to walk instead of using your car.
It may mean doing menial labour like picking up garbage.
Being an advocate for the poor and disadvantaged in our community
may mean giving up time to lobby our politicians.
Our Lenten journey is about seeking those kinds of transformation in our own lives so that the transformation can begin within us.
It requires examining our lives for the things that keep us from changing.
May God grant us the grace to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus!
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street United Church in Brantford Ontario
March 8, 2015 Lent
Jeremiah 31:31 & John 12:20
The Compassion that Heals and Frees Us
Pay attention because at the end of the sermon
and then again at the end of the service
I’m going to ask you to connect the dots.
We have all had our hearts rent or broken.
The mental and emotional pain that we experience in life, generally, is the result of grief and loss.
Loss – is a constant companion and those losses to our lives are sometimes so great the pain borders on the unbearable.
There is though another type of emotional and spiritual pain, and that is the pain felt for others, as distinguished – from the pain of grief – which is usually about our own loss. Sometimes the two are comingled and felt simultaneously; but they are separate.
Jesus ministry was primarily one of compassion. Compassion is not “feeling sorry for…” or “pity”. Compassion is putting yourself in the place of the other and trying your very best to understand what it means to actually be the other.
This of course, if you are successful, can produce profound pain and anguish.
Compassion means then to act out of that understanding in such a way as to emulate God's relationship with us.
This of course is the Kingdom of God.
The compassion that heals and frees us –
comes from deep within our hearts.
It springs from such a deep well that it can rightly be spoken of as a direct emanation of our soul.
When we exercise compassion, each and every time, we feed the life of our innermost self in a way that can only be spoken of as divine;
as if we were feeding the message Jeremiah referred to written on our hearts.
John says to us;
12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
12:25 those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
12:26 whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
You are walking down the street, and you encounter a homeless man or woman, unkempt, even dirty, and they appeal to you for help.
How do you react?
What goes through your head as you are deciding?
Do you even consider giving them money?
Do you rely on stereotypes to rationalize a response?
You are on vacation in Mexico or South Africa or Brazil and are approached by swarms of children sometimes begging but often trying to sell you something that you really don’t need….
What do you do?
You are driving through the Six Nations reserve next door to us here,
or the Saugeen reserve near Port Elgin,
or past the native community at Stony Point
near Grand Bend...
or Cape Croaker on the Bruce…
What do think?
You hear about the huge number of unemployed in Ontario,
crippling job losses and the social and economic fallout from those numbers …
What do you think or do?
How do you feel when you experience those sorts of circumstance;
or are confronted with social realities that confound our sense of entitlement
to a warm bed, and sufficient food for all.
If your overriding need or want is to remain separated, then you will tend to see the person as some other type or group, one that behaves differently than we do
and so that must be the reason for their misfortune.
We all come to compassion, as a way of being,
in our own time and by our own processes.
We all arrive at that place where we are sensitive
to the heartbeat in another person
by vastly different means.
I developed a better understanding
of what compassion is during
an immersion experience
I was fortunate enough to be part of in Mexico;
during which I got the opportunity
to directly connect with the underclass
with no intermediate filters.
It changed my life.
During Lent we have been on
what is often referred to as a journey.
On this journey we have talked about the experience of being lost,
of being left without connectedness
to the root of our being,
and I told you that I’ve been so lost I thought I would never be found.
But found I was by compassion.
Then we wondered how we can ever keep our bearings with the competing selves within us grasping for our attention. Well compassion requires that our attention is directed outward.
We also discovered that those bearings
are more dependably found and maintained
with a New Commandment:
” that you love one another as I have loved you”
and you cannot truly love the other
without feeling their pain.
We will soon learn that the rules with which we bind ourselves must flow from that New Commandment,
and the New Covenant announced by Jesus;
because they tell us how we should respond
to God’s freely given grace.
We will learn that the Journey we are on implies that we finish differently than we began.
That’s the point of all of our Lenten disciplines:
to reshape us,
to bring us to new realizations and realities,
to make us different people than when we began. To take us back to our default settings.
Back to the place that children were at
when they could be touched by tears
without our logical defenses.
Karen Armstrong is a former nun and a British academic who has become renowned for her work bridging the gaps between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It is her contention that the Golden Rule:
"Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you", that universal principle of empathy and respect, is at the core of all major religions.
That it is the essence of our faith.
But then, there’s another step, and this is where
you need to begin to connect the dots;
it's got to be incarnated into practical action.
It doesn't mean feeling sorry for people.
It doesn't mean pity.
It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other person.
Learning what's motivating the other person,
learning about their grievances.
Jesus ministry and mission was one of compassion. In every sense
in everything he did,
in every way possible.
We are called to be the church.
The same church we have always been
especially in our finest hours.
The social fabric that we in the western world
have struggled to weave
is again under serious assault
by a failing economic model and
by the predatory mentality
of many of those inhabiting the corridors
of financial and political power.
In the thirties the Churches of Canada were in the forefront of the struggle to help those devastated by the Great Depression in the Thirties.
We do not stand almost alone this time,
as we have governments which are responsive,
but the need may soon be as urgent.
I will bet you that every single person in this sanctuary knows someone that is effected by job loss or at the very least extreme job stress
brought on by impending losses.
Recently I facilitated a series of training sessions that focused upon the sacramental sharing of ourselves as a formal ministry of this congregation,
a ministry of Pastoral Care and compassion.
One that incarnates our Love into practical action.
Easter is the high point of the Christian year and encapsulates all that we stand for and all that we aspire to be and to do as we live out our Christian calling.
That Calling is to have compassion for all.
Come and feed your Compassion.
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street United Church in Brantford Ontario.
March 15, 2015 LENT
John 2, 13-22
The Rules With Which We Bind Ourselves
Even though it is a beautiful day out there,
and we can say with some confidence that
spring is around the corner; it is still winter,
and as I have been reminded, snow storms
in early April are really not that rare.
This is the Fifth Sunday in Lent,
a time of quiet introspection.
This is a sombre season as we contemplate
our place in the Holy Week events
that begin next week with Palm/Passion Sunday and lead to Black Friday; the darkness before the dawn.
This is also an already a sober year
with acutely painful economic and
job related news arriving
regularly here in Canada, where plant closures like the Kellogg’s example in London several months ago are all too frequent.
Pension funds are under pressure,
and have been for several years,
interest income has pretty much dried up,
so much for Freedom Fifty Five!
Even the Chinese are now publicly worried about the American debt they hold and frequently
give the Americans advice on managing their affairs. What is striking is that this modern economy of ours is really only about 300 years old.
And we designed it ourselves,
we created it ourselves,
and as much as anything in life can be controlled,
we control it completely.
We have just heard one version of
God’s Hebrew Scripture Commandments.
These economic rules I speak of,
or commandments if you wish,
are rules of our own
that we collectively have chosen to obey.
Before Christianity became the officially recognised religion of the Roman Empire
it was still a movement.
It was not an organisation or institution
as it is in most manifestations today.
That came with the Romans,
and is today epitomised by the Roman Church
and its bureaucracy.
But we all have our organisations, our institutions, our bureaucracies to a greater or lesser degree.
We as the United Church were born of a movement called the Liberal Evangelical Consciences
of the 18th Century.
We are the result of a highly motivated and dedicated Christian Culture
that was determined to crystallize that movement and preserve it at its very best.
Whether or not they achieved that goal
or whether we have lived up to it
are two questions we’ll deal with some other time.
The Gospel lesson this morning
is the familiar story of Jesus cleaning
the money changers out of the temple; but,
this is not a day on which we are invited
to feel virtuous alongside corruption
that Jesus was challenging in the Jewish temple.
I don’t believe the temple culture was substantially different than our own,
but I will discuss that later.
The Gospel always addresses us
in the here and now.
And so – what would Jesus
clean out of the lives of our churches today?
Are we, or even could we, be seen as hypocrites?
Are we so concerned with our own security,
our own money, our own sense of reverence
that we collude with corrupt systems of commerce, abuse, and lack of compassion
that arise from the behaviour of our own economy?
Well of course the answer to some of those questions is yes,
but we can’t repent
nor can we act without awareness.
Read; John 2, 13-22
When we were growing up we all had rules. Generally speaking; the older you are, probably,
the stricter the rules were.
Always wear a hat in the winter.
Never chew gum in church.
Remember your offering.
And of course, always wear clean underwear because you never know
when you’re going to get hit by a bus.
Rules are simply part of life.
The story we have just heard
is told in all four gospels, and it is one of a kind.
It is the only story that we have of Jesus
that has him displaying anger.
And this is not just anger, this is rage.
We have never seen Jesus this mad,
nor I suspect had his disciples.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as John
all tell the same story,
but the former three in a more orderly fashion, place the cleansing of the temple
toward the end of their gospels;
there, at the end during the last week of Jesus life we can more readily understand his anger
in the context of the frustration he must have experienced while at the hands of his critics.
But here less than 2 chapters into John’s Gospel
it is much more difficult to understand Jesus rage.
He has just finished,
at the beginning of chapter 2,
impressing the crowds
by turning jars of water into wine;
so why, this outburst in the temple,
essentially at the beginning of Jesus ministry,
and why is John’s Gospel the one that is unique.
This was, it appears, the angriest any one had ever seen Jesus before or since,
but the problem is not that Jesus was mad,
but that he exploded inside the temple,
and on top of all of that it’s Passover.
He couldn’t have chosen a more sensitive time
or place to exercise his temper, his volatility.
Now let’s look not only at what Jesus did
as he stood their whip in hand,
and then kicked over the tables sending coins clattering across the floor,
birds flapping and squawking as they were let loose,
and bulls and oxen bawling as they ran toward freedom.
Let’s look also at what Jesus did not do.
He did not rail against adultery,
stealing, or covetousness.
He attacked only worship.
He assaulted religion.
Now this is not an attack on the Pharisee’s legalism, this is different.
The Pharisees operated outside the temple cult
for the most part.
This is not an attack on pagans at a local tavern.
This is an attack on the righteous in the temple,
and it’s an attack upon the righteous,
right here in this church.
The temple is a place where one goes to meet God, that’s why we’re here this morning; and,
Passover is a time to celebrate
what God has done for us.
Ministers and priests are those who help us to be with God and that is why we are considered one of the helping professions.
Now that is exactly what those merchants
were doing in the temple, or so they thought.
They were changing Roman coins into shekels,
so that the faithful could buy from a temple merchant, an ox, or sheep or pigeon as an offering to God a scripture required.
That distant awesome God
of the Hebrew Scriptures,
the one that Annette has just read about
and that Moses went to meet on the mountain,
the one that counselled Isaiah and Jeremiah,
there in the temple that distant awesome God
had been domesticated,
there in the temple,
that distant awesome God has been
tamed to the level of a business transaction.
And, here we sit, we put our money on the plate hoping to get a sniff off the divine.
There is a documentary program that I will mentioned to you from time to time
entitled the Corporation;
in which corporate behaviour,
and specific corporations,
are analyzed based upon psychiatric criterion.
Many of those corporations
and this particularly applies to American and British Banks over the last decade, if they were people, would be deemed to be psychopathic.
Just like the most infamous of the recent crop of criminals beginning with Bernie Madoff.
The good news is that we are becoming aware
in a way that we have never been in the past.
It is the blossoming awareness that I see everywhere that we celebrate this morning.
I’m supposed to be here with you as a minister helping you meet God.
We are perilously close to Passover as Lent now begins to close,
and we are supposed to be passing over
from death to life as in the exodus from Egypt,
to be moving from the enslavement
of whatever masters us………………including rules that we have imposed upon ourselves,
to worship of the one true living God.
So is our temple hallowed?
Or do we get out of bed in the morning,
get dressed, look up at the screen, sing the songs, look interested, say hello to God, and go home?
Or do we engage!
I think this just might be what got Jesus,
not just upset, but so damn mad.
I think that the author of John’s Gospel
placed this confrontational disturbing story
up front and in your face because
he thought we need to know
the sort of God who had come among us.
He thought we needed to be aware.
The first 12 chapters of John
are often called the book of signs
because there is always an underlining theme
of God demonstrating through Jesus
just what their relationship is.
So that, we can then understand, the nature of the relationship with them, that we must have.
God’s commandments are not to be obeyed
so that we will get what we want.
We are to obey because this is what God wants.
We are to obey because God’s revelation to us through the Old Testament prophets and the new.
From John 13:34 we hear:
"I give you a new commandment:
that you love one another as I have loved you."
And from I Corinthians 13:13,
"Faith, hope, and love, let these endure among you, and the greatest is love."
The rules with which we bind ourselves
must flow from that New Commandment,
and the New Covenant announced by Jesus;
they tell us how we should respond
to God’s freely given grace.
This is not quid pro quo.
This is not tit for tat.
This is not buyer beware
nor is it an equitable commercial
or even an equitable moral arrangement.
These commandments we speak of, are though, some of the means by which we can access the Holiest of Holies,
access the one true living and loving God.
In Lent, I have often said,
that we are to pause and reflect,
but this not just an exercise in navel gazing,
we do not stand before a mirror
of our own moral introspection.
It’s much more difficult than that.
We stand before a righteous and demanding God.
A God whose standards, although beyond us,
can lead us down the paths of human fulfilment.
A God whose demands stretch us to our very limits yet in the stretching we discover elasticity and growth.
A God whose presence may feel like the sting of a whip sometimes yet notice, that’s only when we’ve lapsed into complacency and static doldrums.
The sting of the whip is a wakeup call to return to life, where
death and sorrow are not entities unto themselves, but only the compliments of life, love, and vigour.
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street United Church in Brantford, Ontario.
March 29/2015 / PASSION/PALM Sunday
Mark 11: 1-11 and Mark 14:
Love; Too Much of a Good Thing?
Even though we know the ending
we relive the story week by week.
This week we are reminded of Jesus’ journey
and that, that journey is nearing its climax.
It’s a journey that takes him from Baptism by John in the river Jordan, to a single-minded encounter with people who display the dark side
of what it means to be human.
This is an encounter with people
for whom love and compassion
were secondary to Power and Wealth and Security.
People who were quite prepared to extinguish Love without a second thought if it got in the way
and became too much of a good thing.
We’ve been invited to come along on this journey of Jesus ministry of compassion many times. In a few minutes I’m going to tell you a story that shows in very stark terms what a difficult trip it is to take.
Compassion means; suffering with (com-passion) and it is lived out by bearing one another’s burdens.
Dominic Crossan explains to us that in all of the depictions of healers in the ancient Mediterranean none, not even Aesculapius
the Greek God of Medicine and Healing,
was depicted touching those he healed
whereas Jesus touched everybody.
He even touched the Lepers.
He suffered with them.
The period around Easter,
revered as the Holiest of seasons
attracts the greatest struggle and conversely
the greatest wonder, joy, excitement
and of course unavoidably the greatest perversions.
I think of in particular, Mel Gibson’s
“Passion of the Christ” from a number years ago.
You only need to refer to Apocalypto,
Gibson’s next movie to realise
that the scale of vividly graphic violence and brutality were simply the artistic currency
that Gibson was using at the time.
It was a perversion of Jesus story that sprang from Gibson’s own experience with personal demons.
The Compassion and Love that we spoke of last week was the raison d’être of Jesus ministry;
and it ran headlong into conflict
with those for whom Power was important
and as we all know Power and
Love / Compassion are very uneasy companions.
Jesus’ ministry to the outcasts and marginalised,
his dining with tax collectors,
his practical approach to the Torah and the Law of Moses had the religious authorities apoplectic, because he eroded their power
and therefore their security.
The Pharisees it seems felt threatened
and so the rules that were their life
became more important than love.
The religious authorities,
the Priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees,
that made up the Sanhedrin got it horribly wrong when they sided with the power and the money
and the establishment,
and found that Jesus love
was just a bit over the top,
a little much,
he needed to tone it down a bit
and play by the rules,
especially during Passover
while Jerusalem was packed
and the Roman garrison was on high alert.
For those in bed with the Romans,
Jesus love and compassion
may have seemed benign to begin with
but he has quickly replaced John the Baptist
as a threat.
What we rightly should be struggling with this morning on the eve of Holy Week
is Jesus willingness to follow his calling.
His willingness to face the dark side
of human behaviour,
to go where ever he was lead
in spite of the obvious danger to his person;
because he knew that he was controversial
and he knew he was seen as provocative
even if not purposefully so.
And he knew, because he couldn’t have avoided
seeing what happened to Jews
who represented a threat to the order of Rome,
he knew what could easily become his fate.
We don’t know how these things will work out
if we sign on for the journey.
We move forward with Jesus,
trusting in the journey
and in our relationship with him,
imagining that it will serve God
in some good way and trusting
that God will be with us.
There are dangers and risks involved.
But as the conclusion of our Creed says,
“God is with us. We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.”
We trust that God goes forward with us
into these unknown places.
How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy
By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher
At around 10:15, a local milk truck driver named Charles Roberts IV, entered the school house bearing a small arsenal and a grudge against God.
He expelled the adults and young males.
After ordering the girls to lie face down on the floor, he called his wife on the phone and told her he was angry at God for the death of their firstborn daughter, Elise, nine years earlier.
In execution style, Roberts began firing his semi-automatic pistol into the little girls lying on the floor. As police crashed into the school, he shot himself dead.
The media descended on Nickel Mines
and the story circled the globe.
As the Amish mourned and buried their children they were showered with messages and gifts
from all over the world.
But what proved most helpful, we learned,
was something hard to describe –
'a common painful thread'
that drew the families together.
The authors of “Amish Grace” say the community had been prepared by thick habits of 'mutual aid', rooted in the New Testament commandment
'to bear one another's burdens'"
Then, 'with a swiftness that startled the world,'
the stricken Amish did something remarkable — they forgave the killer, Charles Roberts,
and reached out to his widow and children.
Three Amish men showed up one evening,
to express their sorrow.
Another called on the killer's father
and for an hour held him in his arms.
When Roberts himself was buried,
next to his daughter,
more than half the mourners at the cemetery
It was, one of them said,
simply the right thing to do.
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street United Church in Brantford Ontario