There isn’t a whole lot to be said about what is happening at Penn state which hasn’t already been said. But in a story in which all that went unsaid issued in such a tragedy, the need to say something is inescapable.
My first reaction was as a kid. Yeah, a kid. Not as a parent or pastor. But as a kid looking up into an incomprehensible world which is only navigated by the charts of the night sky held by those who have gone before you. By those who hold all the power and influence over all you know and can possibly understand. My own frigate was steered by loving parents and a protective family. But I can only imagine the fear and confusion of those kids who stand in the shadows of heroes who have driven them into dark waters and then run them aground.
I mean, who the hell do you trust in such a wide dark world? Where the unknown fathoms of the drowning deep meet the wide reaches of the limitless ceiling of the night as far as can be seen?
Such confusion was quickly overtaken by the anger of a parent. A parent who would harbor murderous imaginations toward anyone who even thought such things about his own kids. A parent who has no illusions about the ease of forgiveness.
And against the dark backdrop of concern for a football team, anger on behalf of a child flames like the brightness of one thousand suns.
God couldn’t forgive till the cross happened. Let’s get rid of our Pollyanna saccharine spirituality that imagines forgiveness is a straight between two closely juxtaposed points. Real forgiveness is the work of a lifetime and it’s a lot harder than football. Anger and forgiveness may be strange bedfellows but outside of subpar Christian fiction books, the reality is they abide comfortably.
Though my time as a pastor is waning, I did think like one. But not as one who would shame those who cry out for justice but as one who looks out over a culture burned-over with cynicism and the inability to be shocked. As one who has looked into the eyes of abuse victims and prayed with them.
Maybe we do need to remember our sin in all this – there but for the grace of God… But that may not be the sermon we need first. First, we need sermons chock full of the cross-anchored promises of every tear being wiped away and all the crooked paths being made straight. After reading of such brutality and ferocious savagery I need – wait…I am longing for a picture, a vision of unimaginable beauty. One full of the reality of which every truly loving touch is but an echo reverberating against the longings of every human heart. I wanna hear that all the reasons for anger will be no more.
Every event is a volume of sermons for those who are listening. But some sermons need to proceed others. Outrage is necessary. But other chapters must follow with our own guilt splashed upon the page. We may not have abused a child. We may not have stood by while one was being abused. But we are guilty. We have as much need for the cross as the vilest offender. It sucks to admit. But it’s true.
If we get this backwards, there will be no wrongs righted. But if we get it right, the cross is given it’s due in our own history and the history of everything else. The cross holding all of our anger in the periphery of its crosshairs. The cross greasing the wheels of forgiveness. The cross reminding us of what and Who is before us.