While we gathered last week for worship, a gunman was opening fire on the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. It’s believed to be the largest church shooting in history: 27 killed, 20 injured.
It’s devastating news. Even more devastating is the growing frequency of mass shootings in our country. A mass shooting is defined as gun violence with 4 or more persons injured or killed. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, between October 1 (the day of the Las Vegas Concert Massacre) and last Friday (November 10, 2017- my dad’s birthday) there were 44 mass shootings across 22 different states.
604 persons injured (441 from Las Vegas, 20 Sutherland Springs TX)
131 persons died (59 from Las Vegas, 27 Sutherland Springs TX)
What can we say in the midst of all this pain, horror, death? The truth.
Many of us constant state of grieving and stress Many of us are afraid, or at least feeling insecure
It’s one thing to experience such violence in the midst of war. (This is why we must honor and thank our veterans). It’s another when violence invades our safe places: home, school, places where we have fun, church. There’s a reason why we call where we worship a sanctuary. It’s to be a place safety, belonging, healing, hope. Now it’s been violated. Again.
When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to losing perspective and another short step to despair. “I guess this is just the way things are now. Nothing I can do about it.”
The shootings just keep coming. We’re hit and hit and hit again with the pain, loss, fear. We want to protect ourselves – build up the security, only let certain people in and certain information in. It’s like building up a callus (Consider persons who work with their hands or the feet of dancers.)
I’m afraid of building up a callus on my heart. (hard-hearted, callous) I need to stay soft in God’s hands.
When we’re afraid/insecure it’s a short step to blaming and demonizing. It’s the fault of-
Those who sell the guns/ammo
Those who own the guns
Those who enforce the laws
Those who make the laws
Lobbyists paying off the politicians
Those who are supposed to follow up on the “crazy people”
This only breeds false stereotypes and prejudice. It polarizes us into camps, “You’re either with us or you’re against us”
The Pro Guns Stereotype
Allow anyone to buy any type of gun and any type of ammunition, when and wherever they want, or they will break down your door, take away your guns, crush your freedom,
kill everyone you love, and put an end to the American way
The No Guns Stereotype
If you own a gun—any gun—you might as well be the one pulling the trigger in all of these terrible mass shootings.
God provides another way- Creation
The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation
The opposite of chaos isn’t order, safety, it’s creation
The Wisdom of God creates
Proverbs 3:19-20, The Voice
19 It was by wisdom that the Eternal fashioned the earth
and by understanding that He designed the heavens.
20 Through His knowledge, the deep was divided into seas and sky,
and the clouds understood when to let down the morning dew.
The Wisdom of God Creates
The gift of God is God’s perspective and understanding of the situation. The gift of God is the ability to discern what is true, right, and lasting and good. The gift of God is to create something in the midst of pain and loss.
What do we do? Seek God’s wisdom to think past either/or solutions. The situation is often far more complex than that. It’s easier/safer to pick a side and demonize. It takes courage to stay at the table, be curious, ask questions, talk, pray, build consensus, work through the prejudice and complications to real, effective problem solving and action.
There’s a reason why Jesus calls us the Light of the World. There’s a reason we are described as living stones built into a spiritual house. By the grace of God we are Sanctuary- safety, belonging, healing, hope. We are the place where diverse people come together to seek God’s wisdom and out of that wisdom something creative and good is born.
By the grace of God, seeking the creative wisdom of God, it is possible to break through the polarization to something new, good. It’s possible to hold together common sense gun laws and limits while at the same time not demonizing respectful, responsible hunters, marksmen, gun owners and persons who never want to touch a gun. It possible to discuss and address the need for greater mental health access, healthy families, and the power of lobbyists.
Wisdom of God Creates. By the grace of God we will be courageous and we will be wise and we will be used of God for the light will overcome the darkness.
21 My [child], never lose sight of God’s wisdom and knowledge:
make decisions out of true wisdom, guard your good sense,
22 And they will be life to your soul
and fine jewelry around your neck.
23 Then each one of your steps will land securely on your life’s journey,
and you will not trip or fall.
24 Your mind will be clear, free from fear;
when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep.
Merciful and Mighty God, how wondrous is your wisdom!
Your wisdom is eternal, beautiful, creative, powerful, good.
The strong foundation of life itself, all of life.
Grant us your wisdom that we may discern faithfully and be bearers of your life, goodness, and truth
Grant us your wisdom that we may walk with you all my days, clear-eyed and sure-footed and courageous
Grant us your wisdom that we may be your peace and rest in your peace, each night and forever.
We ask this for the honor and glory of your name, for the building of your kingdom, for the good of our neighbors and ourselves. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to the tech team and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. Videos of these messages are available on the church Facebook Page.
If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
This prayer was offered 7/10/16 during worship at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida in response to a month of overwhelming injustice and violence.
The vows we make at our baptism, and the vows we renew when we make public commitments to Christ, seem especially poignant given the events of this past week. I remind you of them.
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of my sin.
I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.
This week will mark the 1 month anniversary of the Pulse Orlando Massacre. 49 killed, 53 injured. Most young, Latino/Latina, and most from the gay community.
Two weeks after the massacre, Tuesday June 28, a terrorist attack consisting of shootings and suicide bombings occurred at the international terminal of the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. More than 230 people were injured. 45 people were killed in addition to the 3 attackers. The victims were from 11 different countries.
A few days later, last Sunday July 3, at least 298 people were killed and over 246 were injured after a large car bomb explosion in the middle of a busy market in Baghdad. The blast occurred in the Karrada area, the home to many Shia Muslims and a large Christian minority. The attack was part of series of Isis attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.
Two days later, Tuesday July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a 37 year old black man. The officers were each 28 year old white men.
A day later, Wednesday July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was a 32 year old black man. The officer is white.
A day later, Thursday July 7, two black snipers ambushed and opened fire at the end of a peaceful protest in Dallas. 7 officers and two civilians are injured. 5 white officers are dead- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.
God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Lord Jesus, help us accept your gift of life
All lives matter
All lives matter because all are made in your image
All lives matter and should be protected and respected
for their worth and dignity are from you
All lives matter and should come home safely to their loved ones
It’s not us and them, it’s just us
Lord Jesus, help us live your gift of love
All lives matter
Yet some are targeted with prejudice and violence
because of the color of their skin
the zip code of their home
what they do for a living
So we speak and pray specifics
Black lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Foreign lives matter
Christian lives matter
Law enforcement lives matter
Latino/Latina lives matter
LGBTQIA lives matter
The Poor, their lives matter
The Young, their lives matter
All lives matter
Break our hearts Jesus that we may weep as you weep
Break our hearts Jesus that we may love as you love
Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging
Lord Jesus, take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us your courage
Grant us your strength
Grant us your perseverance
That we may be your sanctuary, your safe place
That we may live your justice
That we may use your power with wisdom and humility
That we may be your whole and holy people
A people of integrity
That we may speak and act and love again and again and again
Till every dividing wall of hate, fear and mistrust
comes crashing down in your Powerful Name
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Fill us with your hope
Fill us with your salt
Fill us with your light
Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace
Teach us to pray and teach us to live your prayer Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer
The word “innocent” from its Latin root means “not wounded.” That’s how we all start life. We’re all innocent. It doesn’t have anything to do with moral right or wrong. It has to do with not being wounded yet. We start unwounded. We start innocent, but the killing of our holy innocence by power and abuse (as in the killing of the Holy Innocents by Herod [Matthew 2:1-23]) is an archetypal image of what eventually happens to all of us. – Richard Rohr
There was another night in Bethlehem. No angel chorus was heard that evening. No Gloria in excelsis. The air that night was rent with shrieks–shrieks and cries; sobs and tears. A hellish horde had done the bidding–the bidding of a paranoid devil. These thugs search –not for life– but to deal out death. And newborn babes lie bundled in grave cloths–laid to rest–cradled in fresh-turned earth. None to save them; so that the streets of Bethlehem echo– Miserere, miserere! – James T. Dennison, Jr. in Kerux: The Online Journal of Biblical Theology
End the Madness
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Hear our cry! Hear our cry!
Death is at the door
Evil is taking the day
Fear makes us crazy
Relief supplies rotting on the docks
Vaccines waiting on shelves
Abortions of convenience
End the madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Teach us to value every life
Come quickly. Come in power.
Rescue your beloved.
Lord, where else shall we go?
************** Click Here for another reflection on this scripture by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The Slaughter of the Innocents. Click Here for his reflection entitled Herod.
For information on The Story of Christmas Reading Plan, click here