The Holy Awkward with Pastor Ryan

A Lament for Vegas

A lament for Las Vegas

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Today, Las Vegas will no doubt be added to what has become an infamous line of mass shootings that have impacted the United States in the last 20 something years.

Columbine…Virginia Tech…Aurora…Sandy Hook…Pulse…Las Vegas.

These places have received new meaning in light of horrific events, forever attached to acts of hatred and senseless violence.  They have instilled fear, they have left us on edge, and let us not deny they have festered into the predictable debacle between those who argue mental health is to blame and others who argue it’s due to our country’s increased access to guns.  And don’t get me wrong, I have my own strong convictions about stricter gun control, but I don’t want us to reduce what has happened to such an ongoing conversation.

Last night, 50+ people enjoying a concert were mercilessly killed at the hands of a gunman.

When King Herod learned of Jesus’ birth, he “was frightened and all of Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2:1-4).  The thought that someone could compete with his power and prestige.  The notion that someone could rob him of his status.  And  yet, we read this story left with the unfortunate recognition of how little it takes to push someone to act in ways not of God.  Our God is love.  Not violence, not unholy thoughts, not hate.

We know how this familiar story of Herod played out.  A massacre of children under two because of someone’s distorted desires.  And then the passage contains a haunting echo of the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Ramah, known as a site of barrenness, a site of grief.  A site of loss.  And the same may have been said for Bethlehem that unforgettable time where children suffered at the hands of one man’s wicked ways.  And the same can be said as we watch and read the news this morning.

We ponder how such a horrific turn of events in our own gospel story could precede one of the most joy-filled moments in our salvation story, the advent of the Christ child who would take away the sins of this messy world.  Yes, the Christ child ushers in hope, but we still seek direction as we sift through the fragments of our brokenness.  While the advent of the Christ child in the midst of Bethlehem’s grief was not the solution to the families’ pain, it is the promise that we don’t make this journey in isolation.

This week, you will likely find yourself on social media seeing one argument after the other about what’s to blame for Las Vegas.  But don’t let these fleeting and politicized arguments cloud your hearts and minds of the voices of the innocent crying out.  The holiness of God’s creation is in need of redemption and it is our lamenting through which we advocate for the voices we have lost.

As in the midst of Bethlehem’s sorrow, Christ accompanies us in our current lament for a world that is flawed and perpetually hurting. 

Lord, listen to your children praying.  Send us love.  Send us power.  Send us grace.

Posted by Ryan LaRock with

What Keeps you Up at Night?

What keeps you up at night?

Dreams can capture the good, the bad, and sometimes, the ugly.  At times they lead us to recall the marks of wounds and at other times, the void left by loss.  Without getting too particular, they are the things that keep us up at night.

I don’t know about you, but my nights have been pretty restless lately.  And my heart and mind tend to stir that way when I find myself losing sight of the “holy.”

(Holy.  It’s one of those nebulous words we could spend hours defining.  I am a fan of thinking of it as “that which is” or “those things which are set apart.”)

And so what keeps me up at night?  It’s that much of what we might call or consider “holy stirrings” in our day-to-day continue to drown in a chaos of unholy distraction.

The holy stirring of hearts ministering with the communities in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, watered down by our culture’s obsession with celebrity scandals and NCAA frauds.

The holy stirring of clergy speaking out against white supremacy, derided as a multi-sided issue or an unnecessary excuse to rile up people in anger.

The holy stirring of a peaceful kneeling denouncing the sin of oppression, unjustly labeled as an un-American/anti-military agenda at the hands of “sons of b**ches.”

I left work the other day with a head about to explode scrolling down my Facebook feed, wondering why such holy stirrings, opportunities to grow, to reconcile, and to repair have succumbed to unholy complacency.  And by that, I mean an unwillingness to name and address the structures in place that are anything but in the eyes of God.  

In the midst of the mess of this week, Facebook did that sweet and sappy thing it does of reminding me of what happened on that day a year ago and I started sinking in my chair.  My grandparents’ wedding anniversary.  62 years it would have been.  And to think if I had refrained from using Facebook or from clicking “more” to see what misinformed comment the next person made about the issue du jour, I would have missed a personal holy stirring.  To think I was on the verge of deleting friends who dwell in ignorance or who have no understanding of grace.  In the sea of my own anger and disappointment with the state of things, I almost overlooked a person in my own life, my Grandma, who showed me what “holy” should look like.

A holy stirring is one that seeks to name or reclaim the beauty which God intended amidst a creation that is delicate, fragile, and lost.  And we find ourselves in such a world.  One that is broken, torn, and tattered.  At odds, divided, and hurt.  These stirrings provide me with that re-centering I long for when my mind becomes filled with the things of this world and begs a response.

Holy stirrings center around human relationships, the sharing of stories, and most of all, an awareness of God’s provision.

At the center of it all is our need to reclaim our holy story.  The one where we adore a Christ whose kingdom is not of this world.  A reality perhaps we won’t fully come to embrace until we genuinely begin naming the unholy in our midst and start seeking restoration.

If we say nothing, the unholy festers.  But if we speak out, we get somewhere.  If we react, we politicize quickly.  But if we respond, we seek  dialogue.

And so, what truly keeps you up at night?  What leaves your heart restless?


Posted by Ryan LaRock with