“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me. That I go before you to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.” John 14:1
The shooting at First Baptist Church in Texas has left us all heartbroken. The victims range in age from 18 months to 77 years. There are no words which express our grief. Yet we seek to offer comfort and support to those families which have been so devastatingly impacted. With the knowledge that where words fail, being present and available might bring comfort though a ministry of presence.
We pray constantly that God’s Holy Spirit might provided relief in the knowledge that while there is little inspired rationale we can give which provides answers to questions put forth. We are assured that our comfort lies in the knowledge that God is with us. That God is not absent from instances of suffering, but ever present to provide spiritual support which enables us to face the dawning day. That the promise of God is to be with us through every moment of life, especially in situations which are far greater than our human capacity to deal with.
As people of faith we are called to respond in a wide array of manners. We are compelled to be with those in the midst of agony. We are commanded to go to them and sit by their side offering what they need. We are called to prayer unceasingly trusting in God to provide that which we cannot, hope in the midst of despair. We are called to act to produce meaningful change in a world gone astray. We are called to be consistent in our proclamation of faith in a God who does not seek to punish or condemn, but who offers compassion, mercy and love.
We offer a wide array of prayers. We offer prayers of intercession asking for God’s mercy and presence to be extended to all whose hearts are heavy-leaden. We offer prayers of lament that the pain of the nation does not produce lasting change. We offer prayers of thanksgiving that not even tragedy can destroy faith. We offer prayers of self-dedication placing our lives in the service of those whose eyes are brimming with tears and pain. Our prayers will not cease on behalf of those whose lives will never be the same. But we pray that God’s peace and ability to cope may be granted to all who need it most.
The tragic news is devastating, but it is not surprising. Too many students and teachers, concert-goers, community members, and people of faith in houses of worship across the country have been brutally murdered like the worshipers in Sutherland Springs. Three of the five deadliest shootings in modern American history have taken place in the last 17 months. Two of these five have occurred in just the last 35 days. Every day, guns kill 93 Americans and injure 200 more. These tragedies are alarmingly frequent, yet preventable.
As we continue to learn more about this tragedy, our questions remain. Why did the shooter have access to military grade weapons of war? Why was a man who was sentenced to a year in military prison for assaulting his wife and infant stepchild allowed to purchase an AR-15, the same weapon used by the murderers in Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Umpqua, and San Bernardino? How many more innocent Americans must die before our lawmakers gather the necessary courage to stand up to the gun industry and the NRA and pass common-sense gun safety laws?
We read in James 2:14, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Leviticus 19:16 instructs us, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” Westrongly believe in the power of prayer. And yet, we know that prayer is a call to action rather than a substitute for it.
We urge Congress to take the following actions:
- Establish universal background checks and close the private sale loophole.
- Ban the purchase and sale of assault weapons.
- Ban the purchase and sale of high capacity ammunition magazines.
The PC(USA) speaks with one voice as we answer God’s call to comfort the broken-hearted and heal the wounds of the world. To be one of God’s transforming agents proclaiming the ways of the Prince of Peace to a world broken by on-going violence inflicted against the innocent.
Help us O’God, to protect our children, and be the agents of your change.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou are with me. Thou rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23.
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