Newtown, Connecticut: so where do we possibly look for hope?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

kids singing their hearts out at FPCBrandon
kids singing their hearts out at FPCBrandon

Would you look at these beautiful children! This photograph was taken at the pre-school Christmas pageant at First Presbyterian Church Thursday evening.

If you want to understand anything at all about hope, then I recommend that you consider these children, and the powerful witness of their lives.

CONNECTICUT: First off, I need you to know that I do not want to write about Friday’s shooting in Connecticut. Instead, what I want to write about is Christmas, puppies, cute ornaments on trees, and my 13-month grandson, David.

But that’s not where the world is at this moment in time. The world as we know it is hurting terribly, and confused and angry, and – most of all – sad beyond measure about the awful and systematic murder of so many children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

At the same time, I also understand that many of you want to know what I think about all of this. You’ve already told me that you expect some kind of commentary. But I really don’t want to do that, either, because I’m afraid that I’ll let you down, or misrepresent what’s really in my heart, or what’s true, or that I’ll just start to cry again.

So instead, and in the name of hope, what I will do is to share a story with you.

red-H-hopeHOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE: It was Sunday, April 25, 1999, five days after the Columbine High School massacre, and I was teaching my Sunday morning adult education class.

There were around 15 people with me in the room, and we just couldn’t get anything going other than staring at one-another, gloomily, and asking “What is this world coming to?” Perhaps you recognize the question?

After around ten minutes, one woman leaned forward in her chair, looked me squarely in the eyes, and said, “Please tell me what we can do to prevent this kind of thing happening again?”

For a moment I was stumped. Then, in full view, because of the ceiling-to-floor windows across the front of our room, the doors to “Campbell Hall” swung open and around twenty-five of our wonderful youth spilled out across the walkway that ran between the buildings.

Some Presbyterian Youth - pic from Kelly Poirson
Some of our Presbyterian Youth – image from youth director Kelly Poirson

The youth group were like a huge pack of unruly puppies, tumbling over one another, shoving, laughing, making faces, running back and forth, goofing off… They were on their way to the church sanctuary, where they were scheduled to do a practice run-through for the following week’s “Youth Sunday” event.

What they were doing was following Jesus with enthusiasm, loving one-another with passion, and living like their lives really did mean something hugely important in the grand, cosmic, often confusing scheme of things.

It took about three minutes for the young people to traverse the 40-foot space. Then, when the door clanged shut behind the last of them, I gestured widely, trying to encompass the breadth and extent of the beautiful spirits that had paraded across our view.

“That is what we can do about it,” I said.”And that is what we are doing about it.”

And I honestly couldn’t imagine, can’t imagine, any better investment of our time, our resources, our energy, our prayers, and our commitment as concerned citizens in a society that is becoming increasingly lost, than supporting and encouraging our kids (and other people’s) in the context of a living, vibrant, Jesus-centered community of faith.

"and a little child shall lead them..."
“and a little child shall lead them…”

TODAY: And now, reeling emotionally from the specter of such horror in Connecticut, I can feel the slightest crinkle of a smile work its way to the corners of my mouth as I think about Thursday evening’s pre-school pageant, where two, three, and four-year-old children actually led the room-full of parents in the closing prayer.

So you want to know what we should do…? How we should respond…? Where we should act?

Go to church. Put your children in Sunday-school, and then walk across the building and go to a class yourself. Invest in youth. Give. Give to others without regard to anything other than the imperative of love. Live. Live forJesus. Live for the children.

"Hope? I've got all the hope you want, right here!" My grandson, David
“Hope? I’ve got all the hope you want, right here!” My grandson, David

If you love anything about this life, and if you believe even a little bit in the children and in their future, then get involved in a community of faith and keep that commitment alive until the day your earthly life no longer continues. And then, when you stand before your Maker, you can not only say that you swore that you would do everything in your power to prevent another Columbine, another Newtown Connecticut, another…. but you will know to the very bottom of your heart that you really did….

That’s all – DEREK


  1. Really?

    Stand in front of God and be asked if I did everything in my power to prevent another Columbine?

    If it comes to that….I hope I have the guts to ask:

    God, why didn’t YOU do something?

    Am I to be held to a higher moral standard than God? Something is very wrong here; it doesn’t make any sense


    • It’s simple, Tim. I’m suggesting that we all step up and do the best we can with kids. I think we all can; we can be more faithful witnesses to and practitioners of, love. Don’t you think you have room to grow in that area? I know I do.


      • Oh yes, sir, I know I do….

        Its Just that maybe I could hold my head high in pride (sin?) to God and say I did everything in my power to prevent another _______.(fill in blank of tragedy of choice)
        But my smart mouth will get me in trouble by asking:

        “Did you?”


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