First published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul

Seventeen bodies.
Seventeen minutes.
In some places, they will wait longer: twenty minutes; thirty; because seventeen is too young to die; because they have had to grow old before their time; because there are too many more bodies.

Last week, the Episcopal bishops listened to a letter from the parents of a murdered child. They wondered aloud how many such messages they had missed:

We, the bishops of The Episcopal Church, wholeheartedly support and join with the youth in this call to action.
At the same time, we acknowledge that black and brown youth have continuously challenged the United States to address the gun violence that they and their communities are experiencing.  We repent that, as bishops, we have failed to heed their call. …
We will walk with the youth of the United States today and into the future in choosing life.

In biblical numerology – a fiery rabbithole – seventeen is the number of heads and horns of diabolical significance. It is the number of the day of the Flood.
But it also numbers the day on which the Ark came to rest, somewhere in the Ararat mountains.
Seventeen may choose its own significance.

When the Ark came to Ararat to roost, the journey was not over. The flood waters still covered the earth, consuming its breath; but life was ready to break the surface. After the waters had drained into the sky, the work of building a new civilization, renewing humanity’s stewardship of the life God had made for the world to live – that would be a work of trial, error, and repetitive, unrelenting redemption.

Seventeen is the seventh prime number: indivisible.
At ten o’clock on the fourteenth day of the third month of year two thousand eighteen of this portion of our history, twenty-eight days after seventeen of their generation died in one school, in one day, countless students will leave their classes, searching for one more word of covenant, one more promise of life redeemed from the chaos.

Pray for them, make way for them, make time for them, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Featured image: Hieronymus Bosch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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