On Sunday morning, shortly before leaving for the early service, I turned on the news and heard about the mass shooting in Orlando. At that point, the estimate was twenty dead and forty-two wounded. Then, just before the ten o'clock service, a parishioner showed me an update on his smart phone. The estimate was fifty dead and over fifty wounded. All I could think of to do was to add the victims of this horrific act of violence to the Prayers of the People.
For the past two days, when I have had an opportunity to watch the news, read responses, and ponder what happened, I have felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. Sadness for those killed and injured, their loved ones, friends, and colleagues, for my country that seems to have lost its way. Loss of a way of life, of a sense of security, of civility in public discourse, and of effective leadership in public office.
A friend asked me in a Facebook post why someone's faith would make them murder in cold blood. I don't think he liked my response because it included looking at the implications of our own faith and for placing stronger restrictions on certain kinds of guns. James told us, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). Our trust in God and the beliefs we have about God's will for humanity should lead to action. Our faith should lead us in renewed efforts to "persevere in resisting evil", "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being," and all the other imperatives of the Baptismal Covenant.
We have a Christian duty to live our lives according to the example of Christ and to proclaim the good news. Yet, there are those who are both inside and outside our Christian community over whom we have little or no influence. Just as there are those of other faiths who twist the teachings of those faiths, so there are those within the Christian community who have perverted and abused the Gospel. There are people in all faiths who embrace an archaic interpretation of teachings and who rail against more contemporary and progressive viewpoints. Faith communities are struggling internally and externally in the context of a global cultural change. I believe that change is inevitable and that people of faith have an opportunity to contribute in positive ways to the new cultural ethos that emerges. But we will not succeed in that positive contribution through means that are in conflict with the primary values of world religions that call for peace, love, and well-being that supersede images of violence and hatred in our sacred texts.
Neither shooting dozens of LGBT people in a nightclub, nor inciting fear and conflict in political statements, nor being a "murderer at heart" (1 John 3:15) are pleasing in the sight of God. So, let us resolve to resist all of these things that harm God's children and work for common sense measures that are for the common good within our faith communities, across the lines that divide us, and within the body politic. I don't have all the answers. Neither do you. But we do have a faith that promises God can work through us to bring peace and goodwill. It will be hard work. If there were simple solutions, we'd have already prevented tragedies like the massacre in Orlando.
So, let us join hands, listen to one another, and get to work. All the while, let us pray for those who have died, those who suffer, those who are our neighbors, and those who are our enemies, in the hope that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Gracious God, preserver of all things in heaven and earth, receive the souls of those murdered in Orlando into the arms of your mercy; envelop the Orlando community with your love; and grant us all--Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters--the courage and wisdom to speak with one voice in favor of your peace, which passes all understanding. Amen.
I'll see you in Church!