Preaching from the Shadow

Half-formed thoughts toward preaching the Passion in the shadow of another school shooting:

There are two verses that are screaming at me from the Gospel we will read this Sunday.

One was already troubling, for its own reasons, by the long history of violence that this verse has spawned over the centuries: His blood be upon us and on our children. The violence casts its own long and dangerous shadow. The verse has been twisted, twisted into a theology that the body upon the Cross never intended, the body that came for love, was born of love, grew in the knowledge of love. Having loved his own people, he love them to the end (John 13:1, paraphrased and in part).

How can the murder of an innocent man, by some combination of a lynch mob and a complacent, corrupt, cooperative state, be used to justify the murder of others? How can a homicide of envy (the envy of Cain over Abel, of humanity over God since the beginning) be used to justify the oppression that violence breeds? How can the sickening spectacle of the Cross be used to further pain? Yet we as humanity have done it.

And now, in a horrible, awful twist, our children’s blood is on our hands. We have surrounded ourselves with violence, and nails are flying, pinning innocents to the Cross.

The other verse, of course, is from Jesus in the Garden: All who take the sword will perish by the sword.

And here we are, once more, at the entrance to Holy Week, crying out Hosanna, which means, save us, clutching our palms and failing to throw down our AR-15s to be trampled underfoot, forgetting conveniently that those who wielded the wood and metal on Good Friday were not the followers of Jesus, but those who led him out to die.

The sound of mallet on metal
wood and splintered flesh
ricochets around the city walls
shivering the fabric of
the crowd that clothes the alleyways
too often lost in thought and prayers
we fall without an echo
into the open grave

This post first appeared at

The image is a detail from Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Slaughter of the Innocents, via wikimedia

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