Last night, a candlelight vigil was held in front of the courthouse in Floyd to remember those who were killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting. Billy and I went to the vigil, where we stood and listened to the speakers and joined in songs of peace and hope. As tears flowed down her face, a woman talked about growing up in Floyd, moving away, then returning many years later to find a place where she feels free to be who she is. Another woman reminded the crowd that this Friday is the anniversary of another shooting in Charleston. During the refrain of one song, we substituted the names of places where mass shootings have occurred on our country. The song went on for a long, long time. My thoughts turned to the words of Habakkuk:
God, how long do I have to cry out for help
before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
stare trouble in the face day after day?
A group of 50 people holding candles in the night is a beautiful symbol of light in the darkness. Just as it was last night, the light of Christ is passed from person to person and when we lose sight of it, we find someone to show us the light once again. We who despair of the senseless loss of lives that seems an almost weekly occurrence in our towns and cities, have something powerful to share with our fallen brothers and sisters, with their heartbroken families and with those who think they have permission to mow down the most vulnerable among us. We bear the light of Christ in the darkness of tragedy. We bear the light to those who feel somehow "other" and who do not feel safe in the places where they live or dance or worship or study. Though we sometimes despair and think our words and actions mean nothing; though we often feel like Habakkuk when we cry, "How long, God?" that light that we bear brings us back to its source: the risen Christ who makes of us - US! - light bearers and peacemakers in a violent world.
I have attached our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's letter addressing the Orlando shooting. Her words are far more eloquent and moving than mine. I do hope you read it.
The week of June 20-24 is our joint Vacation Bible School with the Presbyterian Church - this includes the children from St. Mark and Zion. Kids 6 yrs-12/13yrs are invited to attend this all day VBS (with snacks, lunch and trips included. Contact Marty Holliday (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Please keep Mindy Farley of Zion and her family in your prayers. Mindy's father, Roger Jones, died unexpectedly this past weekend. May Mindy and her family receive the healing grace of God in these difficult days.
A memorial service will be held for my mother, Norah Mitchell on Thursday, June 30 at 4:00 pm at Zion. A meal will follow the service.
Sometimes you say to yourself: the fire in me is going out. But you were not the one who lit that fire. Your faith does not create God, and your doubts cannot banish Him to nothingness. - Brother Roger of Taize
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued a letter in response to the June 12 shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. This is the deadliest mass shooting in U. S. history. In the letter Eaton states, "We must speak peace and reconciliation into the cacophony of hatred and division. We must live the truth that all people are created in God's image."
Eaton's letter follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them." Genesis 1:27
We are killing ourselves. We believe that all people are created in God's image. All of humanity bears a family resemblance. Those murdered in Orlando were not abstract "others," they are us. But somehow, in the mind of a deeply disturbed gunman, the LGBTQ community was severed from our common humanity. This separation led to the death of 49 and the wounding of 54 of us.
We live in an increasingly divided and polarized society. Too often we sort ourselves into like-minded groups and sort others out. It is a short distance from division to demonization. Yesterday, we witnessed the tragic consequences of this.
There is another way. In Christ God has reconciled the world to God's self. Jesus lived among us sharing our humanity. Jesus died for us to restore our humanity. God invites us into this reconciling work. This must be our witness as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The perpetrator of this hate crime did not come out of nowhere.
He was shaped by our culture of division, which itself has been misshapen by the manipulation of our fears. That is not who we are. St. Paul wrote, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ" (II Corinthians 5:17-20).
Our work begins now. We need to examine ourselves, individually and as a church, to acknowledge the ways we have divided and have been divided. We must stand with people who have been "othered". We must speak peace and reconciliation into the cacophony of hatred and division. We must live the truth that all people are created in God's image.
This morning your churchwide staff came together to mourn and to pray. We prayed for those killed in Orlando and remembered the Charleston Nine killed only a year ago. We prayed for the family of the shooter, for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and for our Muslim brothers and sisters who now face the threat of retaliation. And we prayed that the Prince of Peace will bring us to the day when we stop killing ourselves.
Your sister in Christ,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
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