My Pastoral Note on Las Vegas

<This went out today.  I’ve made no secret that I have no love for guns. That conviction is ever-growing.  Christians need to consider that perhaps, *perhaps,* faith in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, might call our desire to own hand guns and assault rifles into question…>


imagesAnother act of domestic terrorism has filled the news, filled our heads, and at this writing, hundreds of people who were enjoying life just hours ago are now filling the hospitals and, tragically, over 50 are already confirmed dead.

Our addiction to violence is a disease, and it is a sin.

I refused to tune into the news channels this morning, fearing that the children that live in my house might see the world they’re inheriting.  They’re too young not to know how to be brave in the face of such madness.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m too young.

St. Peter, in one of the moments when he spoke out of love and not fear, responded to Jesus in a time of perplexity, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of abundant life.” (John 6:68)

We don’t go to guns.  We don’t go to violence.  We don’t go to partisan bickering which all just becomes a distraction.  The war of words rages while people die.  Trite moralisms and vapid optimism will not do any of us any good today.  And, when we go to Jesus, he doesn’t offer that.  He offers true solace, he offers us the chance to confess, to forgive, to breathe, to mourn, and to re-center ourselves in peace rather than fear.

But, we must remember that, if we go to Jesus, if we seek refuge under those wings, Jesus will send us back out, too.  It is not enough to pray for the victims of mass shootings, we must pray with our shoes on, prepared to work for justice and an end to this kind of violence, as Jesus calls us to in our baptism.

Walter Brueggemann, a prophet in our own time, has a book of prayers (Prayers for a Privileged People [Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2008]) that I find myself thumbing through when these mass shootings happen.

And, let me be honest: I have looked at it too much in my almost 10 years of ministry.

His prayer/poem “God’s Gift in the Midst of Violence” is one I offer to you here today.  But pray it with your shoes on.

Peace today.

P.S. One immediate thing that you can do is donate blood at your local Red Cross.  Click that link to find where your nearest donation center is. Blood donations will be needed!


God’s Gift in the Midst of Violence

The world trembles out of control.

The violence builds,

                Some by terrorism,

                Some by state greed,

                                Dressed up as policy,

                                Violence on every side.

You, in the midst of the out-of-control violence.

                We confess you as steadfast, loyal, reliable,

                But we wonder if you yourself are engaged

                                In brutality

                We confess you to be governor and ruler,

                But we wonder if you manage.

We in the midst of out-of-control violence,

                We in great faith

                We in deep vocational call

                We in our several anxieties.

We—alongside you—in the trembling.

This day we pray for freedom to move

                Beyond fear to caring,

                Beyond self to neighbor,

                Beyond protection to growth.

That we may be a sign of steadfastness,

                That anxiety may not win the day.

You are the one who said, “Do not be anxious.”

And now we submit to you.

7 thoughts on “My Pastoral Note on Las Vegas

  1. Thank you for the right message for this day. Like you, I have not watched the news. I do not think it is healthy to cocoon ourselves from the world, but I don’t want to be immersed again in the violence. I want to find my shoes and pray.

  2. Well said. I don’t have young children at home anymore, but I remember my parents not having a television in our living room when my sister and I were growing up, because she didn’t want us to see the violent acts happening as children attempted to attend school, or go to church on a Sunday morning. I too am weary of the seemingly increasing spiral of violence and death, when we purportedly know better, know that people are not really different from each other, that one person’s faith does not need to mean the death of your own belief system; and yet we still react to the world around us with violence and hate talk instead of peaceful and helpful dialog and action.
    So what do we do? I agree the Brady Campaign is a good place to start. And then we also need to preach against the violence and hate. We need to preach against the need for Americans to feel they need to arm themselves, even as we know there are gun owners in our congregations who won’t want to hear the gospel on this issue. We need to campaign for a national registry, and for the removal of all assault weapons, handguns, and anything with more firepower than what our police are armed with. Australia called for a ban on guns after a massacre , and violence is down dramatically. We can do this. We must do this. I tell my congregation that we are Jesus’ hands and feet and heart in this hurting world. People of faith need to stand on this issue; pray but also work for a change.

    • It does make a difference. Look at the Greek, which depending on which translation you’d like to use, Bible Hub is not a great scholarly source (thought fine devotional source).

      The Greek here, aioniou has a particular issue. The English seems to indicate age…but the Greek indicates quality. So, in my mind…and in many recent translations, abundant makes more sense in English.

      This is the thing: I think Peter, and Jesus, was talking more about quality of life than heaven in almost every mention of life.

      This has caused the church for ages for focus on the afterlife and forsake this life.

  3. Its Lent and we are wandering in the wilderness. Clicked here to see if you had posted any reflections on the shooting in Florida. Only 3 posts back to your thoughts on Las Vegas… 3 posts. Does the pastoral message evolve over time? I wander and wonder- what can be done?

    • Oh Kiera, I wish I had any wisdom here. The message remains the same, though. If we only think “thoughts and prayers” will change things, then we’re not taking seriously the agency that God has given us.

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