Again. Another shooting. This time at a school: again at a school. Once again, our hearts and our prayers are with the community, the families of the victims, and people everywhere who suffer violence. Suffer violence, again.
As a pastor, I want you to know that I pray after each of these incidents. And after I pray, I reflect on what I can do or say. The church has a role in calling out evil in our midst, so I speak. The last time I spoke about a mass shooting was the very last time we were in church together, this past Sunday. And yet it’s happened again. It happens again, and again, and again.
I struggle to understand why these things happen. I know very well the tendency towards hatred, anger, violence, and emotional reactivity in our human nature. I’ve read the Bible; it’s all there. More, I’ve read countless academic articles on the mass shootings that have plagued our nation over the last 20 years. There are a host of interrelated issues to blame and they include social isolation, mental health, family dysfunction, political dysfunction, the ready availability of guns, the omnipresence of violent media content available in America. But none of these explanations help. Knowing all this information, I still struggle to respond in ways that matter.
There is one fact that I hold on to that does matter, though. I believe that the church is the most powerful organization that God has given to Planet Earth. It might not seem like it, or it might seem irrelevant when we face such unstinting evil. But with the presence of the risen Christ among us, we are (and can become increasingly) a community of love, forgiveness, and connection for all people.
Why does that matter? It matters because sharing our message of hope with the world is the great remedy to every human heartache. Remember that Christ was active when he engaged in his earthly ministry. He did not sit idle, but walked amongst the people and healed them. He healed all those who suffered. He healed again and again. Again and again and again.
I say it often, our little church is ordinary. We have, however, an extraordinary power to offer an open door to the community; to welcome, to teach, to pray for and with, and to engage people in the ways of Jesus. To give to the isolated, the hurting, and the hating this truth: the world is not meaningless. Darkness is not the greatest force in the universe, because God is. The same being who spoke the universe into existence loves us; loves us infinitely.
Friends, as believers, we have the hope that the world is hungry to hear.
Join me in prayer for the victims in Texas and their families, and for the still suffering souls in Buffalo, and for the next victims because there will be others. Also pray with me for the potential lone shooter out there; that they see God, that they gather from God’s love the courage to heal. And most of all, join me in being the church, carrying the presence of Christ, being the hope that someone needs to hear today.
Pastor Jason Duley