This Is Not Camelot
Preached in response to Hurricane Katrina
This Is Not Camelot
The Rev. Dr. Amanda J. Burr
In response to the Newtown Massacre
NOTE: Dr. Burr began this sermon by quoting the lyrics to the musical song, “Camelot.” I don’t have the rights to post those lyrics, but you can find them on the following web page:
Or Google “Camelot” and you should find them easily.
(THE SERMON CONTINUES) But we don’t live in Camelot, a land which may mirror the real world to some extent, because there are wars and death and destruction, but where the line between good and evil is clearly visible. Because we are on the outside looking we know who works for good and we know who is planning evil.
But we live in this world where good is not always visible and evil is not always predictable.
When bad things happen to innocent people like the Friday massacre of 20 children and 7 women — like the 1966 rampage of the tower shooter at the University of Texas who killed 14 people — like the 1999 Columbine murders of one teacher and 12 high school students, by two of their classmates — like the Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania school shooting in 2006 — like the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 by a diagnosed mentally ill student which left 30 college students dead and the Springfield, Oregon school shooting in 2010 — we want to know why….we want an explanation. We want to know the cause! We demand an explanation from anyone who can tell us just what we could have done to prevent such evil from finding its way into our midst. We want to know the mechanism that kick-starts the indifferent machine. We want to locate and find the kill switch, or the launch key to turn it back to abort the launch. O God, Where is the button that will stop the action. O God, where is the rewind button that will take us back to the time before the evil happened. Superman used his super-powers to spin the earth backwards on its axis, to reverse its direction, to take the world backwards in time to rescue his beloved Lois Lane – can’t we figure out a way to do that!
Experts will have theories and explanations like, failure of impulse control, or a messiah complex, psychopathy, or sociopathy, but they won’t make the pain in our hearts go away. All of the reasons for evil are pathological — the Greek word from which the word pathology is derived is the word pathos(pathos) which means suffering. Pathology is about suffering.
Pathophysiology is about the body’s suffering. We can see what causes the body to suffer, when a body is broken or attacked by viruses or bacteria, we may be appalled by its appearance, but we can see its devastation and we can intellectually prepare ourselves for how we will respond to its attack.
When my little sister died at the age of 8 from the chicken pox virus invading her brain she was only the 3rd such case they had seen at Boston Children’s Hospital. That was in 1959. In 1981 I had been a Registered Nurse for 11 years. I was attending Seminary working night shifts on weekends as a nurse at one of the local hospitals to pay my room, board and tuition. While doing a shift in the pediatric unit at the San Dimas Community Hospital, I read an article posted on the bulletin board about a disease called Reye’s syndrome – named for the physician who identified it. It was called a syndrome rather than a disease because it affected multiple organs and was believed to be caused by the use of aspirin in treating viral infections in children — particularly the Chicken Pox virus. What the researchers discovered was that aspirin actually aided the virus’ journey through the body allowing it to cross the blood brain barrier resulting in the inflammation of the lining of the brain, causing a marked headache, fever, seizures, coma and death. Twenty-two years after my sister died I had an idea what had caused her death. But we all took aspirin for a fever when I was a little girl. And not everyone got Reye’s syndrome when our fevers were treated with aspirin.
Psychopathology is the suffering of the Psyche. A Psychopath suffers in mind. We cannot see what causes the suffering. We are so frightened by it, that we are unable to prepare ourselves intellectually or emotionally for the toll which the suffering mind exacts from all of its victims. The mind that suffers wreaks havoc on itself, first, and can––all too often––wreak havoc on others.
Just as we want to wield power over the diseases/pathos that devastate the human body, so too we want to wield power over the diseases/pathos that devastate the human mind. We pray for the power to do so. We wish for magical, super-human powers to fend off evil, to destroy it. We create weapons for that very purpose.
We are, in fact, powerless to eradicate pathos. It is in our nature to want to find the way to repair the world, to repair all of the brokenness that accompanies human existence, but that is not part of our human job description.
Today we are called to hug each other and our children even tighter. Today Jesus calls us to embrace blessing in the midst of mourning, for we are promised comfort. He reminds us to let the little children come to him, and never stop them, for it is to them that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
Keep these words of Paul close at hand and always in your hearts.
31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? 33 Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible
Copyright 2012, Rev. Dr. Amanda J. Burr. Used by permission.