LGBT community, we stand with you in shock, outrage and grief. You are members of my congregation, members of my neighborhood, my community, members of my own family.
The unfathomable toll of death and injury perpetrated by a gunman in Orlando, Florida, moves us to tears. Moves us to prayer. And more: must move us to action.
Like the prophet Habbakuk, we wonder, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help?” (Habbakuk 1:1). And he goes on: “O Lord, how long shall I … cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. … The law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous— therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”
We are not alone in outrage and grief. Not only is there a groundswell of prayerful support for the families of those killed and injured in Orlando, there is widespread disbelief that there is nothing we can do in our society or through our government to address gun violence. Huge numbers of people are coming together via social media and in their own church communities. Many are asking the basic questions about how, after not one but at least 7 mass shootings since the one at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, how can we not find a way to make this stop? Guns in the hands of unhinged men have been aimed at innocent people in an elementary school, a movie theater, an Army base, a university, and more.
What do we do? Being at some distance from the tragedy, we wonder: what can I do? Yes, we faithful people pray. We pray for the repose of the souls of those whose lives were cut off much, much too soon. We pray for their families and friends in their grief. We Episcopalians even pray for the shooter; as impossible as that seems, we ask for strength to do so, because Jesus challenged his followers about the extent of his commandment to love your neighbor: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45a). See the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 815-816 for two especially appropriate ones, “For Peace” and “For our enemies” http://www.bcponline.org/ under the heading “Prayers and Thanksgivings.”
But we faithful people, we followers of Jesus Christ, are to be his agents of peace, his hands and feet in the world. So along with our prayers, what will we do to bring about God’s kingdom, God’s justice, in our world, in our time? For me, it specifically involves an end to gun violence because, simply, it’s with guns that someone going off the deep end can kill so many in such a short time.
For all of us followers of Jesus, we go with Him to stand with those who mourn, those who are cast out, those whom others target and vilify. Stand with them and use the tools the Church gives us to heal, to bind together, to build God’s vineyard in God’s kingdom: water, wine, bread; oil of unction; laying on of hands; blessing; Word and Sacrament.
What will you do? God bless you in your prayers and acts of peace.
The Third Song of Isaiah Surge, illuminare
Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19
Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.