Saturday evening Janice and I spent time down at the Amtrak station experiencing an exhibition by Mid-story created by high school and college interns. This meant we missed the evening local and national news so on Sunday morning when I got up at 3:30 I was confronted with the news of the shooting in El Paso and the just developing story about the shooting in Dayton. I had to wrestle with tossing my sermon and addressing the shootings or sticking with our worship plan. In the end, recognizing that I was laying the foundation for the next sermons I elected to stick with my original sermon and all that had been designed around it for worship.
I share this because our series "Keeping the Sabbath Wholly" began with the nature of the Sabbath observance and it being a gift from God that stood in contrast to the experience of slavery in Egypt. It is also a call to trust that God is able to provide all we need with our labor in 6 days. Many commented on how much they needed the topic and I appreciated the feedback after agonizing on what to do.
Ironically our lounge renovation collided with my sermon as well. The flooring installers didn't finish on Saturday and returned on Sunday morning to finish the room. They didn't begin work during the first service, but during the second service, just as I was starting my sermon, they fired up a saw to cut some flooring. Pastor Kristin had to tell them they couldn't operate the saw during worship. Do you see the irony? Our worship theme was keeping the Sabbath and our Sabbath worship was nearly interrupted by work. I think this speaks to the need for the series.
I now want to offer some reflections on the state of our culture and our ever increasing cycle of violence that stands in direct contrast to the heart of our faith. The prophets pointed to the arrival of the Messiah as being an age when swords would be beaten into plow shares. When they came to arrest Jesus and Peter cut the ear off a slave Jesus rebuked Peter and then healed the slave. Jesus said when we are struck on one cheek we should not strike back and instead offer the other cheek. These serve as direction for us who claim to be disciples of Jesus.
On Monday I was asked by a faithful Christian in another state if we had a security plan and he alluded to having armed people ready around Hope. A local station interviewed some local congregations in the greater Toledo area that have armed security teams. It seems incredibly sad that we live in a country that seems paralyzed to act to reduce gun violence and mass shootings.
During the public debate around guns, gun laws and restrictions we need to be clear that our second amendment right to bear arms is at best conflicted with the heart of our faith and may even stand as a contradiction to what Jesus taught and envisioned. We need to be careful not to confuse Christian faith and our country and constitutional rights.
I own several guns and was sworn as a deputy in Indiana when I served as a pastor there. Even with my training and experience I cannot buy into the idea that more guns are the solution and Dayton is a prime example. Trained police officers stopped the shooting in less than a minute and yet 9 people were killed, and 20 others were wounded in the 30 second shooting spree. It seems increased scrutiny and back ground checks coupled with restriction on weapons never envisioned by the founding fathers are logical first steps. On Sunday I posted a prayer shared by another pastor and I offer that here for those that missed it
A PRAYER FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN A VIOLENT LAND
Most merciful God, we confess that we are a nation addicted to violence. We have celebrated and mythologized the violence we call good, only to be shocked by violence we know to be evil.
We have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
Forgive us for disseminating the decoy of redemptive violence, for embracing the satanic lie that we can do good by killing.
May we who confess Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace have the courage to turn swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks
May we embody the way of peace.
We lament the victims who have died and pray for their souls. Lord, have mercy
We lament the wounded and pray for their healing. Lord, have mercy
We lament our addiction to violence and pray for our deliverance. Lord, have mercy
We lament that our culture sacralizes weapons and pray to learn your better, more beautiful way that makes for peace. Lord, have mercy
We lament that we have idolized the violent instead of learning from your servants of peace. Lord, have mercy
So we pray as we learned from the life and witness of Saint Francis...
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life. Amen