Saturday, April 21, 2007

If it Bleeds, It leads.

The Tulips are up…
Long shoots of green life streaking out of the ground that was just a few short weeks ago buried in 2 feet of snow.

Then there will be the bud. And the petal by petal the bud will open and at some moment we are going to call this bud a flower.

Amazing isn’t it. This life that was hidden - lying dormant under snow has now been called up by the warmth of the day… by the sun-shining down… by the nutrients that are found in something amazing that we call dirt. Who knew that dirt could bring forth such a miracle of life? The ebb and flow of the seasons is truly an amazing part of this world.

Try to hold onto that image of the new life springing forth while I now make a quick turn to talk about TV...

It is a common expression to say that on TV and Newspaper, that...

If it bleeds, it leads.

This is an expression used in many different movies and media to talk about how it is the violent image that is going to sell news papers - get viewers.

It if bleeds, it leads.

Would this be an accurate analysis of the news that is presented to us daily? And why not? Violence has a way of taking the center stage in any situation. The violent moment is shocking and catches your attention. Violence has a way of declaring what a situation is.

If it bleeds or causes great violence and trauma, it leads.

TV has figured this out. The news graphically depicts the world of violence into our living rooms. Situational comedies are all but gone, replaced with Crime dramas and reality shows where people suffer for the world to watch.

“Pedophile set loose in local community” - that is story that will lead. After all - it causes us to fear - to lock the doors - to stay inside - it defines our reality - this pays off because if we don’t talk to others - if we don’t get out - we’ll watch more TV and buy more things - We’ll hunker down and protect ours and our own. Our world view is defined as hide… protect yourself.

If it bleeds it leads.

32 Killed in Virginia Tech by a gun man. This is a story that leads.

Here is a headline about Virginia;

Cho's motives remain unclear. Early reports suggested that the killing was the result of a domestic dispute between Cho and his supposed former girlfriend Emily Hilscher, but it now seems she had no prior relationship with Cho. In the ensuing investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room, which included comments about "rich kids," "debauchery," and "deceitful charlatans" on campus. On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho timestamped between the first and second shooting episodes. It contained an 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 23 digitally recorded videos, in which Cho likened himself to Jesus Christ, and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.

Does this remind you of anyone? Saul in our text is also a killer. Starting with St. Stephen the Martyr we see Saul is involved in the hunting down and killing of many Christians. Saul had the social acceptance of the Roman and some Jewish authority so he is not exactly like Cho. But Cho and Saul are alike in that they have picked a cause that they valued more than human life.

Saul Saul, Why do you persecute me!

At best we can hope that Cho had some sort of mental illness… hope that this wasn’t as intentional as it looked. We’ll likely never really know this…

Cho has chosen a violent way. And he made a powerful statement and has left a mark that the world will not soon forget. He showed that he had the power to end life - the lives of 32 others… and then his own - which denies us any questioning of why this happened. This violence takes centre stage and makes an attempt to define what the world is.

Cho, in a diabolic twisted way, has taken it upon himself to be god - to make the decisions of who lives and dies - and he chose death for those whom he found unworthy or simply in the way.

I wish that Cho could have had Saul’s experience of conversion as he walked across that campus and started his mad rampage. But Paul’s conversion experience in unique - and perhaps Paul was ready to hear in a way that Cho was not. The Word of God knocked Paul over - made him blind - changed him 180 degrees from a man of violence - to a passionate man of the Gospel.

So where was God during all this anyway!? Why couldn’t he swoop in like bat-man or superman. Whap! Pow! Down with the evil doer!

No… God is the one bleeding and dying and crying out for creation to love and return to the truth. God is doing something bigger than death.

Out of the dirt that was a hard and frozen grave for last summers plants, now new life peaks out and greets the sun.

Those in Jesus time were seeking a Messiah that would come like a warrior king and smite the foe - and it resulted in an attempt to kill God through the violence and death of the cross.

Cho was seeking something that we will never know - and great violence was the result.

Saul was seeking Truth, peace and justice through violence and death and laws.

But God’s way ends the cycle of payment where violence is repaid with violence.

Where as the Chos and Sauls of the world can use the power of death -

only God can speak death into life.

Saul is blinded. Annanias - being the church and hearing the command of God goes to Saul - God says “Go, for Saul is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;” God speaks into the heart of violence - and the Church offers healing in the Holy Spirit to Saul who now becomes known as Paul - and apostle of Christ. Christ speaks and Paul is transformed.

1000’s upon 1000’s gathered and offered support and prayers for those grieving this terrible tragedy. The families, the community, the church, all of the body of Christ gathers to lament this tragedy - to mourn this loss…

but then to also redefine it.

Because it is in the Easter resurrection that we celebrate this week that we know that death does not have the final word on life!

God speaks, and there is the conversion of Paul. God speaks and Christ Rises from the dead. God is bringing life out of death. God speaks, and violence and death does not have the final defining power of what life is.

Thanks be to God for bringing forth the new life of the field once again in a continuous process of renewal and redemption - In our baptism there begins a process, the tulips are opening petal by petal and in the midst of this worlds chaos there is hope and the promise of a new life in a new creation.