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Reflections on El Paso and Dayton

Beloved Community,

As we continue to grieve over last weekend’s violence, crying out “How long, O Lord, how long?” it is good to remember that the God we worship can not be defeated by human violence, by anger and rage and ‘isms’ that do not represent the love God pours out abundantly on God’s people.  As the death toll mounts in El Paso, as we read reports of a young man so angry he is willing to kill his own sister, many of us feel discouraged and hopeless, weary to our very bones with the violent spasms of a hatred fanned by the inflammatory language of our national discourse. How, we ask, can we possibly respond to this?

We respond, I believe, by clinging to the one who has met such violence before; to the god-with-us who himself endured torture and death at the hands of angry leaders who feared the good news he had come to share. This Jesus showed us how to navigate such hatred and fear by depending entirely on a God who will not let us go, who walks with us in every particular of our lives, and who triumphs in resurrected life no matter what kind of death the earthly community wishes to impose.

To cling to our God begins with prayer, a desire to sit in God’s presence to receive comfort and healing first, inspiration and energy next. Just as Jesus withdrew regularly to pray saying, Abba, “Daddy,” we too are invited into a deeply personal relationship with God to whom we can bring all our feelings of loss and hopelessness, sorrow and anger and discouragement. This is the foundation of our faith, the anchor of our work in the world. Out of our prayer and our gathering in community to support one another must then come action. Action to cry out against a world gone mad, seemingly fueled by fear and anger and resentment that is made manifest first in hateful language, then in violence and finally in death. How, you ask, can we turn such a strong tide? We turn it one word at a time, one hopeful action at a time, one act of compassion at a time.

Two weeks ago, we talked about a kindness revolution and explored ways to hear one another when we do not agree. Now, my friends, is the time to practice this kindness. We change the world one person at a time, by speaking up when someone says something that denigrates others, by stepping outside our comfort zone to offer compassionate presence to one who is suffering, by looking beneath someone’s angry tirade to the hurt that surely fuels it, by speaking truth to our elected leaders, by engaging in our democratic process to vote and help others to exercise their right to vote too. We act in ways that model what Jesus taught us about how to behave in community together – we forgive one another as we have been forgiven; we hold ourselves accountable for doing the right thing even when no one is looking; we trust that while society may not reward us for following Jesus, the work we do in partnership with God to make God’s kingdom present in our world will result in miracles of faith. Perhaps we will not see the fruits of God’s unending love during our lifetime. Perhaps like Moses we will not get to the promised land. But the nature of our faith is that we cling to the hope of the resurrection and new life, even when we cannot see its fruits.

This week, I invite you to sit in God’s presence. Receive the comfort God extends to all God’s children. Then pray that dangerous prayer –“Put us where you want us, Lord, and show us what to do.” Meanwhile, gather together in community – join the Slow Sheep to walk and meditate and then share a meal on Saturday morning at 9. Gather for worship in Charlotte on Thursday at 6pm for Back2Center, or on Sunday at 9am at Cobbs Hill Manor or at 10:45 at St. John’s Meadows. Together, we can respond, each with our own mustard seed of faith, knowing that from that small seed our God can indeed move mountains.

Grace and peace,
Reverend Laura Bachmann, Associate Pastor