||God Always Wins|
Easter at Columbine links our sufferings with those of Christ
I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that the first anniversary of the Columbine tragedy fell on Holy Thursday.
As someone who lives in the Columbine community and knows many of the Columbine students, I can tell you that it has most definitely been a year of “Lent” here. I think it’s difficult for an outsider to fully appreciate the level of trauma this community, and especially the families, students and faculty, have had to face. It’s not just the loss of a loved one, terrible as that may be in and of itself. It’s the loss, in many cases, of several loved ones at one time. Evan Todd lost four of his best friends. Craig Scott lost his sister as well as several friends. It’s the unspeakable trauma of one minute living a perfectly normal, safe, stable life, and the next minute watching a friend (or two or three) shot down in cold blood a few feet away. It’s the memory of hiding under a desk or stuffed into a storage cabinet, listening as life after life is senselessly snuffed out, wondering whose would be next. It’s the flashbacks, the horrible images that explode onto the brain at the most unpredictable of moments.
Worse yet, it’s the pressure of living out this trauma under the glare of media lights. It’s the reporters who pop out from behind bushes and parked cars, jamming cameras in students’ faces as they ask the most tasteless of questions. It’s the tourists who drive up to the front of the school, asking if they can come in and take pictures. It’s the twisted demand for souvenirs of the place where innocence was lost forever.
It’s been a year of Lent all right. On the Palm Sunday, one student admitted that she had been honestly praying for some kind of injury severe enough to put her into a coma so that she wouldn’t have to face the anniversary. Others stood up and shared with their classmates strategies they have found for coping with crippling depression. Many debated whether or not to attend the rallies on April 20th. They wanted to be with their friends and fellow survivors, but were terrified of being accosted by reporters. For many of those, the fear won out.
How can a community go on in the face of such overwhelming sadness. How can we ever forget? Should we forget? If we don’t, how can we go on? Will we ever again experience real joy?
As I listened to these teens share their stories on Palm Sunday night, I looked up at the crucifix. It suddenly struck me. There was a tragedy. In a sense, it was the ultimate tragedy. God Himself became man, coming down to our level to bring us closer to Himself, and what did we do? We hung Him from a tree to die a horrible, bloody, excruciating, traumatic death. The creature turned against the Creator in the most horrible way possible. Man killed God. We turned against the source of all beauty, all love and all life in our world. It was, in a very real sense, the worst thing that could ever happen.
And yet, we don’t try to forget it. To the contrary, we erect mementos to it everywhere. We put its image in the front of all of our churches. Imagine that. Instead of some nice pretty picture accentuating the positive, we erect life-size statues of God Himself dying a horrible, painful death at the hands of His own creatures. We cast jewelry so that we can wear solid gold figurines of the dying God around our necks.
Isn’t this a little twisted?
As a matter of fact, it isn’t. That’s the contradiction of God’s love.
The crucifixion looked like the ultimate triumph of evil. Satan thwarted God’s plan. There was the world’s last great Hope, hanging from a tree. All appeared lost.
And yet, that was the very moment of God’s triumph. God always has a trump card, and He always plays it in the midst of our darkest moments. Just when it looked as if Jesus was gone and all was lost, He rose from the dead. He overcame death itself, revealing Himself as Lord over all, even of the powers of the most hideous evil ever perpetuated in human history. He instituted His Church, not on the shaky foundation of a mere man subject to death, but on the eternal foundation of The One who cannot be overcome by evil, or death, or Satan himself. He rocked the world with a tremor which shakes us to this very day.
And it all started on Holy Thursday.
Just as we commemorate the day when God was handed over to the forces of evil, so we commemorate the day when our community was handed over to the forces of evil. It was dark and it was awful, and at times we believed that Satan had truly won this time.
But he hadn’t.
God has played his trump card here in Littleton. The souls of the dead victims are in His merciful hands. We have every reason to believe that they are with Him, happy beyond any passing joy this world could have offered.
The community, and the watching world, has turned to Him in ways unimaginable before. Gifts, support and love have flowed to the victims and their families from all corners of the globe. Teens in record numbers are turning back to their churches and their faith. And on the night of April 20th, 2000, I joined 10,000 people at Clement Park for an interfaith candlelight vigil the likes of which I have never seen. Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews -- we all joined together to acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, and to invoke His help and protection on our community and our world.
It is indeed a very special Easter season here in Littleton. The losses are still keenly felt. The victims will never be forgotten. The memories of that day are still painful. But we have learned that there can be joy in the midst of pain. Just as Jesus showed His power and His love on that first Easter Sunday, He has shown it here in the midst of violence and darkness. We’re free to go forth, to “be not afraid” knowing with an unwavering certainty that He is with us always. His message to us is simple, yet absolutely life-changing:
God always wins. Always.