June 1, 2014: Intolerance – Bullying – Mass Shootings

Posted on : May 29th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

A week ago today, we experienced another mass killing of students. This time it was closer to home. Those who were attacked and the attacker himself were all students at UC Santa Barbara.

We have been through so many of these incidents, and nothing seems to stop them. There is something about children and youth whose lives are taken so early that pains us deeply. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut took 20 six and seven year old children’s lives. They were little kids, just beginning their lives. Last week’s rampage took the life of six college age students plus the attacker. Many of them were just finishing their bachelor’s degree.

The complexity of the issues contributing to these mass murders makes it extremely difficult to bring about change. The two most often raised issues are the need for greater access to mental health care and limiting the availability and access to guns, especially to those with mental health issues. Each of those is certainly important. But there is a third dynamic that has been pretty constant in each of the mass murders, and that is that they have been perpetrated by young men who have been bullied or labeled “losers.”

Bullying is becoming endemic in our culture. It is getting much more mean and intense. Most of us who are beyond our teen age years have no idea of how vicious and self-destructive bullying has become through social media and on-line portals. One of our members sent me a very insightful video from a So CA therapist who works with kids, many of whom are bullied. This therapist, Ed Garren, says,

We have created a society that is so competitive, that children (and adults) do not feel valued (as persons)… And this isn’t just in our schools, this is in the work place, this is in our whole society. We have become very vicious, very intolerant and very unloving with each other…. The term “loser” in our society is commonplace. No one wants to be labeled a “loser.”

As I heard those words I immediately thought, “The issues he’s talking about – tolerance, self-worth and loving respect for oneself and others – are spiritual! Our current life situation is not that different from the life situation on the day of Pentecost.”

The Pentecost Story is addressed to a bunch of “losers.” Immediately after the resurrection, the followers of Jesus had lost their leader and their way. They were terrified, lost and bullied. They were also divided and became highly competitive against one another. There was a huge power struggle about who would be the leader, as well as a huge power struggle over who could be included in the community. The followers felt lost, leaderless, powerless and bullied.

As I thought about Ed’s thoughts and the Pentecost story, I found myself asking, “What is the Holy Spirit Trying to Tell Us About Intolerance – Bullying – Mass Shootings?”

The whole idea the Holy Spirit coming into our lives is to get us beyond the intolerance, bullying or any condition that dehumanizes any person. That’s a message that we need to hear right now, isn’t it?

May you be blessed and empowered by the Spirit of God’s inclusive love.


~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Acts 2:1-18

Luke describes the day of Pentecost, when worshipers were filled with the Holy Spirit.

 1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17  ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,

     that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,

       and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

     and your young men shall see visions,

       and your old men shall dream dreams.

18  Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

       in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy!


Who has seen the wind?  

by Christina Rossetti


Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.


Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.



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