Responding to Violence and Destruction

Responding to Violence and Destruction

with Mercy and Justice

by the Rev. Canon Britt E. Olson, Canon to the Ordinary

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. Habakkuk 1:1-4a

The people of God were experiencing violence and destruction from foreign powers and decay and trouble as a result of inequality and injustice within. The prophet Habakkuk cried out to God in grief and anger over the suffering of the righteous at the hands of evil doers.

Indiscriminate violence at the Boston Marathon brings grief, pain and suffering to the innocent victims of unbelievable cruelty and cowardice. Political expediency, the treacherous nature of wealth (Hab. 2:5), arrogance and fear thwart the desires of the people for a just, legal and responsible response to gun violence. We cry out to the Lord, “How long?”

After the House of Bishops meeting in March, our bishops offered a “word” regarding violence. “Our time together has brought us to a new place of recognition with respect to how violence infects, and affects, our lives. We have considered how the reality of violence in our world, our society, our churches, our homes, and ourselves alienate us from God and each other. And we repent that we have too often neglected to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.” (March 12, 2013)

In this Easter season of resurrection we, as the people of God, are called to offer a new vision -- God’s vision of a world where violence is not the most powerful force, where faith overcomes fear, and where kindness and compassion trump selfish greed and corruption. We are to proclaim and live out the good news of Christ’s triumph over the very worst that humanity is capable of. We are to be courageous and patient and to trust in God.

Today (April 23) is the feast of Gregory of Armenia (Holy Men, Holy Women, p. 284-5). His father was a Prince who assassinated the King and was put to death. Gregory escaped and was raised as a Christian. When he returned to share the good news of Christ with the new King whose father had been murdered by Gregory’s father, he was imprisoned for 12 years. As is so often the case, violence and vengeance are passed down through generations.

But Gregory remained faithful in spite of enormous suffering. When he was finally brought to King Tiridates, his witness resulted in the conversion of the King and subsequently of many Armenians. He became a bishop in 300 CE and established the cathedral that is still at the heart of Armenian Christianity.

Gregory is also known as “the Illuminator.” Like him we are called to illuminate, to shine the light of Christ into the dark places of destruction and despair. We do that by acts of mercy and justice and by our proclamation of good news. This weekend’s Bishop’s Conference will gather many of you together at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral to further develop, encourage and strengthen our Christian response in situations of incredible suffering. I look forward to seeing you there.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Judith Rose, St. Patrick #39 wrote:
Thank you, Rev. Canon Britt E. Olson.

As we are all swallowed up in our personal circumstances, many of them difficult and negative these days,
it is not our first inclination to look for God's reasons for either action or inaction. I very much appreciate your short and powerful reminder just exactly what a Christian heart is and does. I am very grateful for your excellent reminder. It is easy to succumb to fear when things seem out of control but our faith is strengthened and we are greatly encouraged when we are pulled out of our negative thought processes and made to realize anew that God is still in control, that he cares and is able and that he is faithful.

Tue, April 23, 2013 @ 6:53 PM

2. Rev. Norman Cram wrote:
As usual, the Canon to the Ordinary shoots straight.

Wed, April 24, 2013 @ 6:36 AM

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