This is a repost from our Facebook account by Rev. Marie.
It was Sunday morning, about an hour before worship, when I got the text from Pastor Anne on Sabbatical: “Praying for you to bring the gospel in the wake of tragedy.” My stomach froze. I felt sick. I hadn’t seen the news this morning but I’ve played this part in worship before: Sandy Hook. Mother Emmanuel. Paris. I could feel it crawling under my skin before I heard the words.
Our music leader told me the news: “There’s been a mass shooting in a gay Orlando nightclub. 50 dead. 50 wounded. It’s the worst terror event since 9/11; the worst mass shooting in American history.” I’m ashamed I was glad I wasn’t preaching. But I was praying, and leading worship as well, and my words just failed me, because looking out on the pews from the pulpit, I know the stories, the hurts and loves of this congregation–and I knew what so many of us were thinking: “It could have been me. It could have been us. Not again.”
And the worship focus was forgiveness–it tasted tangy in my mouth, a little bitter for all it’s truth. How dare I? How dare we? Preach forgiveness the very morning of tragedy? And yet there it was, good and terrible news at the same time–because lately I’ve found forgiveness to be slow ripening, the kind of fruit that takes years to harvest, and right now we are raw.
What piece of this tragedy is the worst? The death toll? That it was Latinx night at Pulse, and so many of the dead and wounded are already marginalized ethnically as well as by gender and love? That as more evidence comes out, the shooter was himself wounded and conflicted against a community he both hated and was somehow a part of? Is it the terror connections, shadowy conspiracies made real? Or is it the extremist religious rhetoric of hate–and I refer here to fellow Christians, some of whom have lost sight of the gospel of love–some of whom even took joy in others pain? Is it that we have compassion fatigue, or is it mere hopelessness? Is it that we seem at a total loss to address rising gun violence in our country?
I don’t know what the worst part is. It’s all awful. All of it. Facebook is so painful to read right now–how many of us have hidden posts, unfriended, closed the window, closed the door, shutdown, unable to react? Me too. I have. It’s why this post took so long to write, to share some compassion with you. It’s why it’s been rewritten so often my husband said, “It’s a facebook post, not a sermon.”
My friends, I am so sorry. I love you so much.
Let us begin again to tell the story that is saving our lives. Let us begin again to remind each other that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, that each body is holy and each person is worthy of love and honor. Let us be numb for a short while, and then let the tears and frustration and righteous anger flow. And then let us work.
Let us stand up for the gospel of Love, the body of Christ that was bullet-ridden on a dance floor, that eternal love that reveals that God’s very self would die for each of us–has died for each of us– loves each and every person: that trans bodies are good, that gay and straight and bisexual lives are worthy, that hate and death have been defeated and will be defeated as many times as needed, that Christ came to save US and THEM and everyone in between.
And let us work. I hope to see you Sunday.
All my love,