As I was preparing for worship in the early hours of the morning last Sunday, I was unaware of the tragedy unfolding in Orlando, Florida. With details continuing to emerge in the flood of reporting by our news media, an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss now consumes our thoughts.
We mourn the loss of the people who were killed, and we grieve for all those who were injured. In addition to those directly affected by this horrific act, the impact of this tragedy reaches across our nation and around the world. This violence did more than kill — it heightened fear, sowed division, and threatened our sense of security.
I thought about what I could say to help ease or comfort our faith community in the wake of this tragedy. Above all, I see this as a time when we as a community of faith must come together in prayer and love.
Times like these remind us that the words we choose are crucially important. Some evoke and escalate fear, hatred, suspicion, and bigotry of those of another religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Others urge us toward a much better way of seeing the world and one another.
As followers of Jesus we are called to this higher standard in both the words we choose and the actions we take. Our call as Christians is to stand steadfast on the promise of hope, to act with compassion, to seek reconciliation and justice, to speak words of kindness, and to strive for unity as children of one God.
Let us take time to mourn and to pray for all of God’s children who are suffering this week — in Orlando and beyond. In the pain-filled days and weeks ahead I invite you to consider these words of scripture and join me in prayer:
This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. (John 13:35)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also. (1 John 4:18-21)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
And, together, let us pray:
For the people killed or injured in these acts of violence
For the families who suffer pain and loss
For the communities experiencing death and trauma
For the words and actions that bring about hope and healing
For the world in need of God’s love revealed in Jesus
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Pastor