I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.Romans 8:18-25
Another of our days in Virginia was going to the National Cathedral. For all the times we have been to DC, we’ve never stopped there. It is a stunningly beautiful and moving place to be. If I lived in the area, I have a feeling I’d spend a LOT of time there. But one of the things I experienced in that space this week was the sense of the “not yet” of the Kingdom of God in the world like the Romans passage speaks of. As beautiful and awe-inspiring as the space was, there were several reminders that the world is not yet what God desires it to be. Just off the main sanctuary area were two areas to light remembrance candles – one to remember those who have given their lives for the freedom of others and those who continue to be in harm’s way in war today. The other was remembering victims of gun violence and praying for an end to gun violence. I lit candles at each.
And then in the basement (known as the crypt), was the chapel of St Joseph of Arimathea within which are memorial plaques recognizing the internment of the ashes of Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, and Matthew Shepard – three people who worked for a world of understanding, care, and compassion. While Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy both died of natural causes, Matthew was brutally murdered because of his sexuality in 1998. This chapel was also the place that was used as the primary place to memorialize those who died of Covid-19 over the last several years. This chapel is focused upon a mural depicting the entombment of the body of Jesus and also provides the foundation that supports the central crossing and tower of the upper levels of the cathedral. It was a space where you could literally feel the silence.
It feels weirdly fitting that a space centered around the remembrances of the not-yet of the world provides the strength that holds up the rest. It isn’t a chapel that proclaims strength or triumph but instead a place that remembers loss, tragedy, brokenness, and a striving for a more just world. It is this space that holds up the rest.
Next to the candles regarding gun violence was this prayer that reflects this already/not yet.
Gracious God, with heavy hearts and troubled minds we pray for the victims of mass shootings. We remember all who have lost their lives to gun violence and commend them to your merciful and loving presence. We hold before you all families and communities who are facing the turmoil and trauma of loss, whose lives have been forever changed, and we place them into your loving arms.
Give us the faith to overcome our fears as we go about thee tasks of daily living and make us faithful instruments of love to a fractured and divided world. We seek your divine help for our nation at this time and pray that our leaders will have the courage and compassion to address the epidemic of gun violence so that all homes, schools, houses of worship, and communities may be places of safety and peace. We ask this in your most Holy Name. Amen.