On the afternoon of Palm Sunday, a wonderful worship service was held at our church.  Revs. Eddie and Sheryl Armstrong put together an ecumenical service focusing upon the last 7 statements of Jesus from the cross.  It featured 7 different speakers from all around middle GA and representing diverse denominations and ethnicities.  The Trumpets of Zion from Macon and the choir from the Marshallville AME church performed.  Following the service, everyone was invited to share in a fish fry.  What a way to start Holy Week.

It is Tax Day as I write this column.  In spite of the time of Holy Week and Passover, the news is about senseless violence.  This is not about weapons; it is about the belief that the only method to draw attention to a person’s pain or problems is to strike out violently and end the lives of people around you.  A student stabs his classmates, an aging clansman shoots at people at a Jewish community center and retirement housing area.  The latest and unfortunately not the last time we will mourn for people going about their normal routine only to be killed to make a point.

Yet, as Easter draws near, maybe there is a lesson to be learned.  Rome decided that a point had to be made in regard to the sense of religious nationalism that seemed to be focused around a Nazarene.  A beating and a public execution for treason against Rome would teach the people.  Violence was the answer to the problem before the authorities in Jerusalem and Rome.  But God said NO!  Life was the proper response.

God’s love is greater than any crisis before us and God grants life even in the face of violent death.  Those victims of violence should not be memorialized with the escalation of violence upon violence, but rather with Love and Grace.  Seek out the reasons and frustrations that lead people to strike out at others.  Bring them out of isolation and separation back into the community that works together to create wholeness, shalom.

Justice should be served, but we must never allow justice to be a further act of violence.  Communities should come together to support the grieving, embrace the family and friends of the person who has destroyed lives and pray for and forgive (refuse the desire for revenge) the attacker.  This is not an easy thing to do.  It requires walking hard roads and being looked at as a fool or a coward.  It requires us to take up our cross and walk.  We do not need to change the world, we only need to change ourselves and share that change with one more person.  It is the Christ-like thing to do.

Shalom,  Darrell