Last Saturday, October 27, the world witnessed yet another mass shooting in the United States. This time the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was the setting for 11 people being gunned down in a hate-filled attack. Since then, I have been wrestling with what the Christian response should be to this event. As I sit with that question, I find myself feeling a mix of being frustrated and tired and hopeful.
I'm frustrated because our world is so divided and partisan that even a tragedy like this is being manipulated for political gain. There may be as much discussion - from both media and politicians - about how this event will impact the United States midterm elections as there has been about the tragedy itself. We seem to have wandered so far from what is really important that I'm not sure if there is hope for the system that governs us. While I'm talking about an American incident, it doesn't take much to look at our Canadian system - and systems around the world - to see that the same issues impact far beyond their borders.
I'm tired because it just keeps happening. This is the 36th shooting in the United States this year in which at least three people have been killed. (www.gunviolencearchive.org) Globally, there are violent conflicts of some kind on almost every continent. It is exhausting to see and hear the violence being done to people by people each day. It can torment a heart that longs for the goodness of our original creation and knows that the grace of Jesus, the love of the father, and the fellowship of the Spirit is available to us.
But I am also hopeful. I am hopeful because Jesus is alive and the violence of this world is not the end of the story. I am hopeful because the same day of the synagogue shooting the Muslim-American community launched a fundraising campaign to assist the Tree of Life community with short-term needs of the victims and their families. That fundraiser from within the Islamic community has raised (at the time I write this) almost $190,000. [launchgood.com/synagogue] There is something about the way of Jesus that finds echoes deep within the hearts of people who don't know him and that gives me hope. I am hopeful because around the globe men and women who follow Jesus have been - and continue to be - purveyors of peace and reconciliation in the midst of the worst kind of tragedy - whether it be from violence or natural disaster; whether it be in the name of religion or capitalism.
Every time you and I choose forgiveness over revenge; respect over gossip; peace over violence; love over hate, we feed the hope that the mess around us is not the ultimate story. We declare that there is something deeper and truer than what the news reports.
We pray Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And we pray those words with hope! Not just wishful thinking kind of hope, but with hope-filled expectation. And then we, by God's grace and empowered by his Spirit, go to live it out - starting in our own homes and churches and communities and extending around the world.
So how do we respond to a tragedy like this? We grieve, and we pray, and we lean in, all the more, to living the peace and way of Jesus.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)