When we were worshiping Sunday morning in three inspiring worship services, we might have heard something had happened in Orlando, but none of us realized the enormity of the horror that was taking place. In retrospect, I wish we had known…I wish we had known to spend a few minutes of respectful silence and prayer, at least.
Once again we are shocked, saddened, angered at a senseless mass slaughter of our people. Once again an individual with a legally purchased high-powered weapon designed for military purposes has gone on a rampage for reasons we may never fully understand, and the loss of life is tragic and incomprehensible.
It was a terror attack, apparently. Yes, it seems so. The shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS. He was among those Muslims who distort their religion and use it as an excuse and rationalization for their acts of terror.
It was a hate crime. Yes, it seems that too. The fact that the attack took place in a gay night club is not lost on anyone.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone who believes in God could carry out or condone such an attack. For the life of me, I cannot understand how a young man who was born and grew up in this country, who has held a steady job for the past 8 years, could be capable of such an atrocity.
We hear things. He was abusive of his first wife. She suspects he may have been gay himself. He made threatening comments to co-workers. What does it all mean?
There’s much we will never understand. What we can understand is horrific—the families of 49 mostly young people are grieving their terrible, senseless loss. The wife and 3-year-old son of the shooter are without a husband and father—a tragedy in itself. A community is left devastated, a nation in shock. Where might the next terrorist strike? A vast number of our citizens are left wondering if they may be the next target just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The question is, are we horrified and shocked enough to do something about preventing future such slaughters? I thought after the loss of so many children at Sandy Hook that we would do something, some sensible efforts at keeping guns out of the hands of violent people. The gun lobby blocked all such efforts. And since then, how many others? How many more will it take?
As a church, all I know to do is to pause and pray. All I know to do is to continually remind ourselves and others that hate is not the way, that violence is not the answer. All I know to do is continue to the best of our ability—and with God’s help--to live into our mission statement to be “the living body of Christ…welcoming ALL…” And that we should mean ALL. All I know to do is keep reminding ourselves that Jesus said that the crux of it all is to love God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves…yes, and that we should even love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
That’s all I know to do. But that we can do, for starters at least…and never forget that God blesses our feeble efforts.
I must say a word of thanks to all who made the Bibletimes such a huge success last week. The gym and youth area were transformed into ancient Egypt, and ancient Egyptians were seen everywhere teaching and guiding the children, working in their shops, and leading singing and dance. Kudos to our staff, interns, and many adult volunteers for providing such an engaging learning experience for our children. They will long remember the story of Joseph!
The 2016 Western NC Conference session will begin tonight (Wednesday) for clergy and tomorrow morning for all delegates. Our lay delegates are Judy LaFountaine and David Brown. Jane Wood is an at-large delegate as the Smoky Mountain District Lay Leader. It appears to be a conference with little debate. We’ll be voting on a conference budget (with a slight decrease over this year’s budget) and officers for the next four years. More importantly, we’ll be worshiping and considering God’s call to us to, in the words of the conference mission statement, “Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World.”
As Becky and I will be at the closing session of conference as you are worshiping Sunday, Wilson Strickhausen will preach his final sermon as our associate pastor. I know you’ll be glad to hear him! And don’t forget Wilson’s and Hardy Tippett’s retirement dinner coming up June 29! You can make a reservation Sunday.
See you soon!