“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” Habakkuk 1:2-3
Grace and peace to all of you in these heart-wrenching days.
On Sunday night, we watched in horror as unspeakable violence and death unfolded in Las Vegas. One lone gunman with an arsenal of weapons and an unfathomably evil plan laid siege to the open field where over 22,00 concert goers had gathered for a carefree night of music.
To date, 59 people have died. Over 500 others were injured.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotion similar to my own in these short days since. I have cried and grieved the lives lost and the lives forever traumatized and changed. I’ve given thanks for every individual who acted selflessly to help or save another in the middle of that unthinkable chaos. I’ve been angry….angry about the growing tide of violence in our society, about what I consider completely insufficient gun control laws in our nation, about the inadequacy of my prayers amid such vast suffering and senselessness. I’ve felt hopeless. Speechless. Exhausted.
How long, O God, how long?
Those were the words of scripture that quickly came to mind for me when I first saw this news. How long, O God, must we endure this violence that breaks our hearts and rips at our collective souls? How long, O God?
These are words the people of God ask often throughout our sacred narrative, a kind of desperate lament that springs from moments of utter hopelessness and deep-seated fear. They demand of God an answer that stills our anxiety and satisfies our hunger to understand the incomprehensible.
But I have the distinct sense now that the dialogue has been reversed, that God is asking that question of us.
How long, my people, will you travel this path of violence and destruction?
How long, my children, will you allow hatred and fear to conquer the love I have commanded you to share?
How long, my precious creations, until you learn the ways of peace?
Beloved, amazing Church, none of us by ourselves can heal what ails us or deliver the justice we thirst for or transform all suffering to hope. We can only follow our true calling as Church, each doing our part to overwhelm this tattered, hurting world with an extravagant outpouring of love.
And so in this precious, tender moment after the tragedy and loss of Las Vegas, I call on each of us to be the Church at our beautiful best. Love more boldly. Dare to speak of peace. Act courageously for change. Pray without ceasing. Persevere in faith.
Be the Church.
With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister