I was asked to lead the prayer at the City Council meeting in Longview, Texas. Below is the prayer I gave.
My latest for the Longview News-Journal
It has been a difficult few weeks in the United States. First, there was the shooting in Las Vegas leaving nearly 60 dead and hundreds injured. Then there was an attack in New York City. Most recently there was a mass shooting at a small Baptist church in Texas during Sunday services.
These acts of senseless violence can stir up a lot of questions in a person’s mind. Why would someone do this? How can I help? What is going on in this world? What is the Christian response to the acts of violence?
In the wake of these events more and more churches and communities of faith are having conversations regarding action plans and intruder policies. Schools are holding lockdown drills and reminding staff about proper procedures in the event of a tragedy. These events have set many of us on edge; there is a sense of uncertainty that is lingering in the air.
During this time of uncertainty and chaos, it is easy to give up on hope. It is easy to think that things are too broken to be fixed, or the problem is too great for one person or community. On top of that, some leaders are unwilling or unable to address the issue or propose anything that will make a meaningful difference.
These attacks break my heart and uncover a truth that many people want to hide, our world is not the very good place that God deemed it in Genesis 1. Sadly, it is becoming commonplace in our American society to hear about mass shootings and deadly attacks. Unfortunately, our society as a whole is becoming desensitized to the heinous violence that is taking place. This is not because we are heartless or do not feel sadness or grief but because there is a sense that these problems are too complex and will never go away. We can throw our hands in the air and ask “what is the point?” It is easier to mourn for a time and move on, hoping and praying that nothing happens like this ever again.
A person of faith I believe I am called by God to be the voice for the voiceless, the mouthpiece for the oppressed, to speak a word of comfort to the hurting. Christians are called to strive for goodness, mercy, love, and justice for all people as a response to their faith.
The Disciples of Christ, the denomination that I serve, refers to itself as “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” These past events and many others continue to bring to the forefront of our news and social media that our world is fragmented, not just across party lines but in our spirit as well. People are hurting, people are seeking something better; there has to be something that can be done.
Tomorrow will be the first Sunday since the deadly shooting in Sutherland Springs. I do not envy any minister who will have to preach. Is there a word that can be proclaimed that will ease the hearts and minds of those in attendance? Hopefully, we have not already ‘moved on’ to something else to occupy our time. Some people will not want to talk about it because it is too painful; some people will want their minister to take a bold stance for or against gun control. These messages only further to divide. I do think that communities of faith need to have honest and open conversations about these critical issues but in a way that all voices can be heard and listened to.
I believe that there is a word that can be shared that will speak to the heart of this issue.
At the end of the Book of Revelation, we find a hopeful message. The Book of Revelation has been viewed as a scary book with weird metaphors as well as a roadmap to the end of the world. I think these interpretations miss the main theme of the book which is hope. After digging through twenty chapters of proclamations, visions and trumpet blasting, we arrive at a message of hope. Revelation 21:1-6 describes a new heaven and new earth, a new order of the way things are to be. The author of Revelation hears a voice that proclaims that God is making all things new, death will be no more; there will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore. This is the eternal hope that Christians hold on to. Hope for a world not plagued with hate, hope for a time when love will rule the day, hope for a better tomorrow.
If God is the God that we say God is then, in the end, every wrong will be righted, love will triumph over evil, peace will reign over chaos and justice will overpower intolerance and hate. The Church in this city and around this country must continue to proclaim this truth. It is hard not to have a clear answer, it is hard to live in such turbulent times. The Church and its faithful followers can be a beacon of light and hope to those suffering and concerned about the future. While we do not want to forget those who lost their lives, we as the faithful followers of Christ must continue to find avenues to make the message of Christ’s love, peace, redemption, and grace known.
We must mourn those who have died; we must support those who have lost someone they love. In the face of evil, the church universal must be united in the bold claim that in the end love wins, in the end, God’s mercy, justice, peace, grace, reconciliation, and love will win. As a follower of Christ, it is my call and duty to embody that love in tangible, life-giving ways. This is not a quick fix or an easy answer, but it is a faith-filled one. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.