Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison

This last friday morning, at approximately 12:30am, evil came to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, CO.  At the midnight showing of the newest installment in the Batman series, a man, who can only be described as diabolical, opened fire into the crowded theater 9.  I woke up at 5:00am that day, headed to work the early shift at the hospital that morning.  That afternoon my pastor sent an email to our community asking us how we were personally affected by the events.  Below is the reflection that I sent.

I just got off a nearly 10 hour shift at St Anthony hospital.  I was house chaplain today, which means I am the lead chaplain for the department and respond to all the major events in the facility.  When I woke up today at 5:00am and saw that my Facebook feed was ablaze with news of the theater shootings, I knew today would be a day I remember what I was doing for the rest of my life.  I wasn't sure yet if anyone had been transported to our hospital, but I knew that I needed to get there.  Our hospital had been put onto mass casualty alert. Something like this fucks with your sense of control (even though the idea that we ever had control in the first place is a farce), your sense of safety, your sense of what is good and true and right in the world.  Part of my job as house chaplain is to offer the daily overhead prayer.  What in the world do you offer at a time like this?  While we did not take in any victims from today's shooting, my hospital received a number of the victims of the Columbine shootings 13 years ago and the staff was very much reliving that tragedy today.  

I spoke this prayer overhead:
We pray to you almighty God. You are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Do not let us fail in the face of these events. Uphold us with your love, and give us the strength we need. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are still in peril; for the sake of your great mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord. (ELW Pastoral Care, page 386) 

It is surreal to wake up and realize that suddenly, the world is just different. Yet, while the world is irrevocably changed, and today the world mourns, my hospital was full of people whose world changed tragically today too.  

But as I walked down the halls of the Neuro ICU, the wife of a patient, whom I have prayed with daily, whose husband suffered a catastrophic stroke last week, rushed out.  She was crying tears of joy, her husband had opened his eyes.  She proclaimed "God is good!  God has been here all along even when it didn't seem good!"  I hugged her, and agreed: God is good and even more importantly on a day like today, God has been here all along.  

So, as I sit here utterly exhausted, I cling to that promise...indeed, God has been here all along.  Words are cheap in a situation like this.  We can only feel.  The questions of why and how are rational responses to an irrational act.  It cannot be explained.  It's a damn good thing that God's boundless grace and the peace that passes all understanding cannot be explained either.

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