Last Sunday we dealt with the price children pay for violence – in war, via gangs, and unfortunately, in our homes. What if, we pondered, the image of the children who died during the course of a day were projected Hunger-Games-style in the sky for all the world to see? Would that make any difference?
As I thought about this and reflected with several folks it was not apparent that my plan to project images of children – not necessarily ones who had died – on the screen while playing Paul Simon’s American Tune in the background would have the desired effect. Some of the images were particularly painful – children in tears, children begging, children in refugee camps. There were images of American soldiers coming home after deployment and hugging their children – often with tears in the eyes of the little ones and the adults who held them. And yes, there were two images – faded to ease the shock of them – of two children who were dead. But there was one image that grabbed me, that brought tears to my eyes.
On the pavement is the chalk outline of a woman, arms outstretched. And on what would be that woman’s lap and bosom there lay a little girl. A living, breathing little girl with long dark hair. She is lying in a fetal position, curled up as if in the warm embrace of her mother. That’s the image that tore at my heart strings.
I gazed at that image for a long time as I contemplated whether or not I would include it in the slides for the Sunday service. Tears streamed down my face as I imagined the longing of that little girl, her yearning for the embrace of her mother – an embrace she would never experience again. Many of us know what it is like to yearn for an embrace or to hear the voice of a loved one who is no longer with us. But this little one, in a war-torn land … she more than most needed that embrace.
We knew these pictures would be painful to look at. Some attending the service might feel the images did not belong in worship. How will we speak a message of hope? Of healing? We will move directly from the message with the images into the Sacrament of Holy Communion! The table where all is forgiven, where hope is renewed, where the redemptive and loving embrace of God is made manifest and our common faith is celebrated – That’s how we will recover from the pain of the images! Jesus – with us, promising never to leave us. Christ assuring us that we are not alone. We would conclude the service with a hymn filled with hope. Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion!
There would be joy and a fervent commitment to end the kinds of violence that leave children maimed physically and emotionally, that leave little ones orphaned or angry. We would emerge from this worship experience with deeper faith and firmer resolve to change the world.
I had such hope. I so wanted that little girl to know that her yearning was felt in our congregation. I wanted one small group of people to be so inspired as to ensure no child would ever have to substitute a chalk drawing on concrete for the warmth of their mother’s arms.
That’s what I wanted. I’m not so sure it worked.