In church yesterday, I talked about three “outrageous propositions” at the heart of our faith. The third one is the Easter proclamation that God’s love is more powerful than hatred or fear or greed, more powerful than empire or even death. I admitted that, although I love to say those words from the pulpit, there are days I struggle to believe they are true.
Today is one of those days. The news of a mass shooting into an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas is horrifying. So far the death toll is 59, with more than 500 injured. Fifty-nine beloved children of God are gone, each of them with spouses or children or parents or friends who are plunged into grief. Five hundred people face painful journey to heal body, mind, and spirit. Thousands of people will live with the memory of those gunshots for the rest of their lives. An entire nation –and beyond—has been shaken by a heightened sense of vulnerability.
The news stirs a whole range of emotions for me. It stirs deep sadness, as I imagine the grief of the families of those who died, as I try to fathom what could lead a human being to such a heinous act. It stirs deep rage, that one person, for whatever reason, could destroy so many lives. It stirs deep fear, that this could happen to someone I love.
There is one more response that is stirred for me: deep determination that we cannot let our sadness and rage and fear define us. The sorrow at such senseless death is overwhelming, and ultimately we are challenged to honor the lives lost by living our lives with as much gratitude and compassion as we can. Our rage can motivate us to ask hard questions—about access to automatic weapons, about mental health care, about alienation, community and common ground. We need to take care that do not allow that rage to descend into bitterness and hatred. I worry most about the danger of fear defining our lives. How do we ensure public safety without violating our rights, or retreating into fortresses that keep people apart? How do we respond by building community rather than heightening suspicion of strangers? We cannot let our sadness and rage and fear define us; instead we are defined by our efforts to live the proposition that God’s love is more powerful.
I have no good answers, only an acknowledgement of the depth of sorrow and rage and fear, only a declaration of determination. And I have the assurance that God is with us. God is weeping with the families who are grieving, weeping for our broken human community. God is working through the first responders and nurses and doctors and chaplains to bring safety and comfort. God is present in our trying to understand. God is nudging our efforts to reach out to the isolated, to strengthen caring community, to reduce our capacity to hurt one another.
I pray that we may find comfort in our faith and in our community of caring. I pray we may be instruments of healing and peace, one for another and for our world. Peace, Debbie