This past Friday evening our church building was a busy hive of activity. Preschoolers, family members and congregation members had come together to share a meal, sing songs and play games. Simple Things. Yet, what joy filled the building as these young ones laughed with their teachers and friends, as they fished for little trinkets from the “fishing hole’, as they sang songs for their parents and ate their ketchup-laden hot dogs. My heart was full!

And it was broken. It had been only a few hours since I had learned of the terrorist attacks in Paris (I had not yet learned of those in Beirut). What a strange cocktail of feelings I experienced as I watched our children. I am so incredibly thankful for the security and the freedom they have to be children—to lose themselves in the rapture of simple, ordinary things. At the same time, I am so very sad that many of the world’s children and other vulnerable ones do not have this same security and freedom. I feel like a child myself, when all I can manage to say in the face of such an event is “It’s not fair!”.

I wish I had a clear sense of a proper response. I wish I could jump aboard one of the many Certainty Trains that pull out of the station at 100 mph whenever one of these types of attacks occurs. But I cannot, because I am uncertain about the best course of action; so often our “solutions” create more suffering.

What I am certain of is that the seeds of compassion, respect and curiosity that are sown in children when they are young, if nurtured, will continue to grow. The skills that our children are learning at St. Mark’s Preschool—sharing, empathy, self-control—the world needs an extra measure of these skills in these difficult days. As our children and youth are formed in this faith community, they come to know God’s love for all creation, including the whole human family. They hear the call to follow Christ on the path of mercy and reconciliation. They receive the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity and self-control.

So, with a joyful and broken heart, I will continue to tend this soil, trusting that, by the grace and power of God, it will bear the fruit of peace.

Pastor Shjerven