“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” So writes Presbyterian minister and novelist Frederick Buechner.
Today that is particularly true. At this writing, forty-nine people were killed in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Muslims at prayer were killed as they prayed. Hate had its way, and a terrible and terrifying event occurred that shakes our world and troubles our souls. It joins a long line of terrible events, all predicated by hate against people who love and serve the same Creator of heaven and earth that we, too, worship.
Today tens of thousands of school children in New Zealand—and perhaps millions worldwide—are walking out of class to demand action on climate change. This is a beautiful thing—a courageous, moral, and loving enactment by those who stand to be most deeply affected by climate change. It is an act of beauty crafted by the least powerful and most vulnerable of our world.
The terrible and the beautiful occur, almost simultaneously, almost all the time. Lives are taken, senselessly, violently. Yet lives are offered up, courageously, lovingly, to call attention to injustice and hatred.
“Don’t be afraid,” says Buechner. Don’t be afraid. Be sad, be angry, be profoundly shaken by the terrible. But don’t be afraid. Let the beauty of vulnerable young people demanding a future of hope be our solace in the midst of sorrow. May such beauty also be our own clarion call to demand better of ourselves, to never normalize hatred and injustice, and to walk, always, in love and solidarity with all of God’s beloved creation.
“Don’t be afraid.” Those words also echo throughout Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holy scriptures. But if fear does overtake us, breathe through it, release it, and claim the steadfast faithfulness of God. Then let us offer ourselves, as our children are today, for the sake of the powerless, the vulnerable, and those who are oppressed. For all of God’s beloved creation.
Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)