Summary: Why does God forbid murder? Because our God is a God of Hope.
Two weeks ago, Michael Kennedy walked into the police station over in Chantilly. He took out a gun and started firing. Detective Vicky Armel was killed immediately. Officer Michael Garabino lived for a week and half before he too finally died from the injuries sustained on that day. The shooter then turned the gun on himself.
From all accounts, Vicky Armel was a committed Christian who diligently served her church, her community, and her children. It was tragedy. I wish I could say it was one of those unique, freak things that happen. But sadly, it seems way too familiar.
It was only a few months ago that police in North Pole, Alaska, averted what would have been a murder-suicide spree by six teenagers only one day later. Last year, seven people – including a teacher and a security guard were killed in Red Lake, MN. It hasn’t been that long since the massacres in Pearl, MS, Jonesboro, AK, West Paducah, KY. And then of course, we all remember Columbine.
But we should not think that this is restricted to our day. Thursday marked the 79th anniversary of what has been called the Bath School District Massacre. On May 18th, 1927, Andrew Kehoe was a disgruntled former member of the county school board in Bath, Michigan. That morning, he killed his wife, then set fire to his property to cover it up. He proceeded to the schoolhouse whereupon he detonated a cache of dynamite under the north wing of the school. Teachers and children who did not die from the blast perished in the five story collapse of the building. The spree didn’t end until Kehoe, still concealing his intentions, called the superintendent of the schools over to his car. There, he pulled out a rifle and shot him at close range. The bullet apparently passed through his body into even more dynamite hidden in Kehoe’s car. The resulting explosion mercifully ended his rampage that day. In all, nearly 45 men, women, and children perished that day.
As we continue in our series on the 10 commandments, we come to the one that simply says, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ We’re so used to the pretty prose of the King James that we miss the force of the original. In Hebrew, it’s just two words: “No Killing!”
It’s really not that hard. I wonder, what is it that drives men to do such desperate deeds?
Now I know that when we get to this commandment, the temptation is to argue around the margins. Is capital punishment killing? Is abortion?* Is suicide? What about war? What about euthanasia? (To which both my wife and I often wonder, ‘What about old people in Asia?’)
**[NOTE FOR THE WEB: My congregation holds a very different view on the sanctity of life than I do. This raised an interesting question for me as a pastor - How far do you lead? Ultimately, I decided that this sermon wasn’t the place to change hearts. Am I waiting for the Spirit’s clearer call or just being a coward. You get to decide. Sometimes, I think you need to pick your battles, and to know when discretion is the better part of valor.]**
Well, there are good and thoughtful answers to all of those questions. But, there are even more bumper stickers, and so I don’t really want to get into those questions this morning. If you are interested, I’d be happy to point you to articles and sermons, and other writings. Just to name one source, our Roman Catholic friends have been doing a great job talking about our God and the “culture of life.”
But take a step back from the edges. Let’s remember a simple, clear, easy to see, easy to understand fact. God loves life! Why is that we make that so complicated?
Why do we kill?
Now, I doubt any of us have actually pulled the trigger in cold blood. I know none of us has served a life sentence for taking a life. And yet, clearly it is a rule that broken far too often. And we’re not even talking about Jesus’ warning that when we hate our neighbor, we’ve killed him in our hearts.
I don’t know if you remember, but when I began this series, I called it “Laws of Love, Laws of Life.” I was originally thinking that these were simple rules that would tell us about God’s love, and how we could live good lives.
Honestly, until May 8th, I thought this Sunday’s sermon would simply be an esoteric thought. But, the sheer proximity of the Chantilly spree shocked me. My brother isn’t sure yet, but he thinks that the detective who tried to help when my sister-in-law needed to be institutionalized, was none other than Vicky Armel.