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by Mike Kinman

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone;
it was our God’s doing
and we find it marvelous to behold

I woke up this morning to the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The news anchor called it “the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history,” to which in my mind I added “until a bigger one happens. Which, of course, it will.”

That’s how I reacted to this awful news. Yes, deep sadness over the tragedy, but also a deep temptation to hopelessness, cynicism and anger.

Another mass shooting. Which will be followed by billions of #PrayForLasVegas social media posts and local prayer vigils. Which will be followed by demands for gun control. Followed by a NRA rally in the city, ridiculous claims from gun rights activists that this isn’t about guns, and the gun lobby using the whole thing to gin up fear that “this time they’re going to take your guns,” which will spike gun sales. Followed by impassioned speeches on the floor of Congress and from preacher’s pulpits to never again allow this to happen. Followed by … nothing changing.

Followed by … it happening again.

We thought Sandy Hook – the slaughter of children – would wake us up. But no.

We thought Pulse – the previous worst mass shooting in US history – would make us change things. No again.

So why should we go through it all again? Why should we say the prayers and call our Representatives and scream and yell when the only difference it will make is in the rising stock prices of the gun manufacturers?

Why should we bother? It just hurts too much. And for what?

And so, I went to this Sunday’s Gospel, hoping for hope. Hoping for something that would help me believe that God’s reign of justice and peace and even simple sanity would win out. And I get this story of violence upon violence upon violence. The vine growers kill the aides, then more aides, then the heir. Then the owner kills the tenants. People falling on stones and stones falling on people. Slaughter everywhere.

This wasn’t helping.

And then two things hit me. Two reminders.

The first is that violence has been around for a long, long, long time. We have gotten exceedingly good and effective at it, but we have been killing one another as long as there have been people walking the earth. It’s senseless and tragic and awful … and we’ve not been able to stop it yet.

Now this could lead me even more deeply into hopelessness, but then I notice this. I notice the scripture Jesus quotes:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone;
it was our God’s doing
and we find it marvelous to behold’?

This also makes no sense. One of the stupidest things you can do if you are a builder is to make a rejected stone your cornerstone. It is a recipe for a building falling to rubble and yet Jesus says “it was God’s doing” and “we find it marvelous to behold!”

We don’t say the prayers and call our representatives and denounce the violence and the unconscionable greed and moral bankruptcy of the gun lobby because we believe that is what will make this all stop. We do it because we trust in a God who stands with the rejected, those who live in the crosshairs and those who mourn the dead … and who bids us, if we are not already, to stand with and as those who are rejected, too.

I look inside and I realize my temptation to hopelessness brings with it a temptation to throw up my hands and look away. And yet that is the one thing Jesus would never, ever, ever do.

And so, I must not look away. I must not succumb to hopelessness. I need to feel the tragedy and the suffering of those who have died and those who have been left. My heart needs to break. My blood needs to boil. I need to meet Jesus at the locus of the worst of what we as human beings can do to one another and feel the love of God in that heart of despair. Ask Christ to help me be the love of God in that heart of despair.

We must join with Christ in shouting at the violence “Stop! Stop! Stop! It is enough!” not because we believe the shouting will change anything, but because Christ shows us the deepest meaning life has is in being a part of that heavenly chorus that refuses to let hate win, that refuses to let death have the last word, that testifies with every last breath that no matter what the odds or the history, we will never stop standing with one another in love.

Mike Kinman is the Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena.

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