A sermon preached at the Church of the Incarnation, San Francisco, on December 13, 2015 (Advent 3), by Christopher L. Webber.
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Three years ago tomorrow, December 14, 2012, a psychotic young man walked into an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut and proceeded to shoot down 26 children and their teachers. This weekend is now designated National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath weekend. We have, of course, numerous more recent violent episodes and one in this state, in San Bernadino, just eleven days ago.
Three years ago, of course, I lived in Connecticut, not far from Newtown. Some members of my congregation worked in Newtown and knew people there so there was an immediacy about it greater, probably, than San Bernadino to us here. Just the same, I thought it might be appropriate to preach today what is basically the same sermon I preached three years ago. The circumstances are somewhat different. There were no children killed in San Bernadino. But this is a sermon, not a political statement, and I think the deeper issues of violence and faith remain much the same.
It’s now three years also since I published a book called The Beowulf Trilogy in which Part III is “Yrfa’s Tale.” My first sequel to Beowulf, published six years earlier, followed a warrior’s effort to lead his tribe to a safer place but Part III, “Yrfa’s Tale,” looks at the same events through the eyes of the warrior’s wife, and halfway through she reminisces about their first child and how the baby, not yet two year’s old, died in an epidemic. She says:
“ I almost envied her,
To be at rest, beyond the rub and rush
And weariness of wending in this world,
But I would ask the question none can answer:
Of all the evils in this life of ours,
The constant care and conflict crushing us,
Why has the Heaven Ruler high above
Assigned the little ones to suffer so?”