A letter written to the parishioners of Saint Bartholomew’ Episcopal Church, North Augusta, SC on the afternoon of October 2, 2017. The day following my installation as their eighth Rector and the the horrific Las Vegas shooting.
My heart weeps with the news reports coming forth from Las Vegas today, especially after our beautiful celebration last evening. This morning as I watched the images, heard recordings of the gunshots, and opened my heart to the pain of those traumatized, I wrestled with moments of fear and anger, and an intense need to know “why”. What causes a human being to inflict such terror and destruction on so many innocent victims? When will it stop?
My earthly mind wants answers and solutions. I want to fix the problem by pointing fingers and casting blame; and yet as I reflect on this month’s epistle from Paul to the Philippians, my heart sings a different melody. Paul is imprisoned in a Roman jail and fears his death is close. His fear must be palpable and even in this moment, he sings the praises of God and writes to the people of Philippi, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4: 5-7, NRSV).
As disciples, we are not called to point fingers or shake fists, we are called to be gentle in our words and actions, and to pray. This does not mean to be passive and do nothing, but it means to love instead of hate, to forgive instead of blame, to be still and pray instead of anxious and busy. The news is horrific and painful, but to add blame and finger-pointing is not what Jesus taught us as he hung on the cross.
There is only 18 inches between our heads and our hearts, but this short distance is the most difficult path to travel AND the most grace-filled path we can make. I invite you to join me in the days and weeks to come to be intentional with praying as a family each day for God’s peace, which surpasses all human understanding to enter our hearts and calm our minds of fear, to help us open our fists and transfigure our pointing fingers into hands of love and embraces of hope and gentleness.
I continue to hold each of you in my prayers.
God’s peace be with you,