–by Lee Hull Moses–
I will be honest: I found myself in a bit of despair on Sunday afternoon, watching the news come in from Orlando. There are so many heartbreaking pieces to this story – so many people dead, so many more wounded, a gay community targeted, the anti-Muslim backlash, the angry and hate-filled responses, the mere fact that we have become so accustomed to this sort of mass shooting that we are almost numb. Despair sets in quickly.
But despair is neither a helpful nor faithful response. There are some things we can do, some ways that we can open ourselves up to God’s redeeming, healing work, even in our heartbroken grief.
We can read the Psalms. The ancient prayer book of the Bible names our despair better than we ever could, and reminds us that even when we sink down to the depths of darkness, God is with us, drawing us up toward the light. Psalm 40: “God drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” We can pray the Psalms and believe them.
We can do something about guns. I confess to not knowing as much about the gun control debate as I should, but I do know this: There is no reason why a private citizen should have access to an assault weapon designed to kill a lot of people at once. We can demand a change.
We can love our Muslim neighbors, who are in their holy month of Ramadan. If we don’t know much about the Islamic tradition, we can learn. When we hear people saying negative things about Muslims, we can remind them that Islam is a tradition of peace, built on the practices of prayer and service. I’m going to write a note to the Islamic Center of Greensboro today, letting them know that I am praying for them. Maybe you can do the same.
We can love our LGBTQ neighbors, many of whom have already been ostracized by their families, their peers, their state, and too often, their faith tradition. We can make sure that our church is a safe place. We can say loudly and clearly that they are welcomed and beloved by God and by our church.
We can keep sending our kids to church camp. That sounds like a non sequitur, but consider this: on Monday morning, six kids loaded up their stuff in our bus and headed off to church camp for the very first time. Several more campers will do the same later this summer. The kids who left this week were accompanied by volunteers who had given up their whole day to make the drive, packed snacks for the kids, and reassured nervous parents that all would be well. At camp this week, those kids will meet other adults who will care for them and who will help them learn about Jesus. They’ll practice living in intentional community, where all are included and loved just exactly as they are. They’ll worship and play and sing and share meals together. They’ll come home with bug bites and sunburns, but I’m betting that they’ll also come home with a little glimpse of what the kingdom of God is like. It’s the best way I know to teach them the good news that love is stronger than hate.
People of God, the world feels dark, and despair is easy. But God is with us and at work through us. We can pray. We can act. We can love. We can keep on being the church.
And that will give us hope.