The following article first appeared in the Family Faith Formation Newsletter of St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, S.C.
Dealing With the Walter Scott/ Michael Slager TragedyThe Gospel for this Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, is John 20:19-31. It includes the story of doubting Thomas, who would not believe that his fellow disciples had seen the risen Lord until he could see and touch Jesus' wounds. The only reality to which he could relate was the horror and brutality of Jesus' unfair and undignified death. He was traumatized beyond belief.
Our community has also witnessed an unfair and undignified death. And there are many things that we begin to doubt under the crushing weight of such sadness. Among them are: 1) We will never see justice and peace and security for all people. Evil always seems to prevail. But we are learning. So far people are binding together in community-wide understanding, and are opting for peace and openness, peaceful justice and change, rather than revolt and protest. 2) Police will never be honest and trustworthy. By far the overwhelming majority of police understand and practice sacrifice, courage and human kindness on a daily basis. Their families undergo the daily stress of the danger under which these officers work. They need our continued love, support and understanding. 3) This was the biggest, most avoidable local human tragedy in recent times. It is utterly senseless, and of no redeeming value whatsoever. I'm certain this is what the disciples thought as they watched their precious friend and Lord dying upon the cross. "The biggest mistake in history!" Thomas was so dejected in his grief and trauma that he could not imagine Life rising out of his situation. And while Walter Scott does not compare with Jesus, neither does Michael Slager represent the Evil One. A big, terrible mistake, misstep, unnecessary loss of two lives, essentially. But we can take comfort in something. Neither the closed door of the Upper Room, nor the stubborn refusal of Thomas to believe could keep Jesus out. And nothing could prevent God from accomplishing His purposes through Jesus, His Son.
If you find it appropriate to do, or if your kids ask you about it, talk with them openly, and let them ask questions. And all the while remember that no closed door (to our hearts or otherwise) and no doubts and questions can ever keep Jesus out of our lives. This is an appropriate time for you to model for your kids how to wrestle faithfully with the tough questions and challenges that life brings. They can learn so much from this, along with the rest of us.
The following prayer was offered at our services today:
Heavenly Father, whose will it is that all people should live together in peace, love and harmony, and in the new life of the resurrection procured for us by your Son Jesus Christ, look with pity upon our community, especially North Charleston, grieved by the loss of Walter Scott’s life, as well as by that which caused the loss of Michael Slager’s freedom. Console their families with your presence. Strengthen us as we are challenged by our renewed awareness of the need for justice for all people. Comfort those in law enforcement, and grant them courage and compassion as they carry out their service. Give patience and wisdom to those who continue to experience injustice and oppression. Protect the weak, correct the sinful, rid us of our suspicions and heal our divisions. All for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.