When the unthinkable happens we are left with many questions. Most will never get answers, some answers will open themselves to more and much will be left to speculation. This never sets well with us, as humans we have a drive for everything to make sense – for our world to make sense. Probably this goes back to our days of survival – we needed to know what to expect so that we could always be prepared. One thing about the world we live in, we can never know for sure what is going to happen. We can however, be sustained by the assurance of God. For all the earthly things that leave us broken, God’s grace and our faith can make us whole.
I am reminded of the psalms 42 and 43 in which the psalmist is longing for God. We hear that the psalmist once had a strong relationship and in these moments in which they feel God has abandoned them they hold strong to the memories of their faith. These psalms have the beautiful language of the soul longing for God and the reminder that: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” It might feel that God has abandoned us during times of chaos, fear or anger. It might feel the terror is rising above or hate is breaking through the love of God but our soul knows the truths. Our souls knows that the Divine Presence does not abandoned us at our moments of need but instead walks this path with us: lifting us up, giving us courage and most importantly allowing for moments of grace to befall upon the moments of darkness. As the psalmist points out, the Holy is our rock and where we take our refuge. God was not in the evil act that was committed; the Divine however was in present in this disaster and in the works of people following this crime.
No one deserved to die on Sunday mornings mass shooting. No one human has ever or will ever have the write to judge another human for their actions; or worse to reign down punishment. No matter what your stance on the Bible and the GLBT community, this was not an action God would tolerate.
In Matthew 5 beginning at verse 38 Jesus speaks about his commandment to “love.” Jesus pushes the boundaries of his teachings but proclaiming to his disciples that they need to even love their enemies. He reminds them that pagans love their neighbors, tax collects even love their own for loving your own is easy; what the Sustainer is asking is that you love everyone, even your enemy. Powerful words. In a sea of religious misconceptions and a nation that politics are trying to divide us, trying to create an “other” (an enemy or an escape goat), it is pretty easy to love and to be nice to those who are in our “in” group but we are called to love in those “outside” ourselves. We are called to love all. We are called to prove ourselves better than the world and worthy of the other worldly Kingdom.
And here is our test. In moments like this, moments when our world becomes uncertain and terror strikes our heart; in moments when we fear the loss of those we love and we mourn for the grief of lives taken, we are called to response not out of hate but love. We are called to not respond with words that create enemies but actions that show evil can’t break the love of God. We are called not to rationalize what happen but to grieve, rebuild and emerge out of the ashes. We are called not to create a new enemy but to show love to those in pain. We are called to change our lives so that perhaps we can be the change that ensures this never happens again.
If only we lived in a world were truly everyone was accepted. Where religion, sexual orientation or life choices didn’t define us but instead all saw the light of God in each other. All saw the possibility of the other instead of being fearful of the other. Yes this sounds like a place we can’t imagine. Yes this sounds not possible or worse a pipe dream, but if we start with ourselves and our corners of the world perhaps one day love can shine through the darkness. Until then, at the moments of tragedy, we look towards God, who is our rock, who is where we find refuge and we long for the moments in which we feel the love warm us. We watch for the moments in which strangers helped strangers and God was there. We seek the face of Christ in the lines of people offering blood to help the injured. We hear God’s voice in the companies who offer support for families to reunite with loved ones or to say their good-byes. We feel the Holy moving as miracles happen and people survived. We know the courage it took for some to leave messages to love ones and the Arms of God that help hold them up.
Let us come together not to lift up the man who took the lives nor the reasons of hate and terror that seeded the event; instead let us lift up the people who lost their life to this act. Let us remember what true evil causes. Let us take a step back from our own life and see where we spread seeds of hate, anger, fear and oppression and let us stand together to stop this. To love all knowing that our commandment from Jesus is to do just that. Following Jesus is not an easy task, it never was; it shouldn’t be mainstream! Following Jesus means taking up all this teachings and truly changing not only ourselves but the world in which we live. Let us as our soul longs for a relationship with God, long for a world in which love instead of evil prevails. Today – let us take the charge to change ourselves and be better; show one more person we love them; take that extra mile for one more co-worker; honk less at that slow person in front of us; give that person a smile in the grocery store; say hello to that child on your way; and most importantly continue to live into the faith your Rock has called you too.