Response to Las Vegas

The news out of Las Vegas is heartbreaking and horrifying. A lone gunman opened fire on a huge crowd gathered for a concert, and killed at least 58 people and wounded hundreds more. We will learn more in the coming days, as the investigation into this senseless act of violence follows a dark trail into an unthinkable action. I know our hearts are turned toward the families and friends of those who were killed, wounded, or are not yet accounted for. The love we send with those prayers is more powerful, and more urgently needed, as the depth of the tragedy unfolds.

When I read of this unspeakable news a short time ago, I couldn’t help but think of the words of the prophet Habakuk:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? (Habakuk 1:2-3 NLT)

They seem all too prophetic, and frighteningly real, in a world that has suffered far too much heartless violence.

Just yesterday we celebrated our unity with all of Christ’s people around the world, as we shared in World Communion Sunday. The grace-filled power of bread and cup - forgiveness and renewed life - may feel of little comfort as we are plunged into such a great darkness one day later. But this God we love will not let us simply tumble into the pain and trauma of tragedy. We are called to be witnesses to, and bearers of, God’s light, no matter how deep the darkness seems. If we do not bear this light, who will be left to carry hope, comfort, and mercy to those who need it most.

It may feel hard to say today, as we do every Sunday: “God is good, always and everywhere!” But say it we must. God did not instigate the horror. Jesus did not walk away from the pain and suffering. There is evil in the world, which is why Habakuk’s lament feels so powerful this day. But evil will never have the last word. I have heard all about you, Lord, Habakuk says.

I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy. (Habakuk 3:2 NLT)

God is good, and can never be otherwise. We see evidence of that goodness rising up as a plea went out for blood donations, and a massive response ensued. The lines to donate were so long that United Blood Service deployed mobile donation vehicles and opened more facilities to meet the demand. Others showed up with water and snacks for people waiting in line. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help victims and families. The goal was to raise $500,000. Within three hours it had already raised nearly half that amount. I am sure this is only the beginning of an avalanche of grace and goodness.

Yes, it feels hard to say ‘God is good, always and everywhere’ when violence on a massive scale erupts once again. But say it we must. To do otherwise is to deny hope, distance mercy, and dismiss the healing power of God’s love.

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