How can I experience anything other than shock, anger, and grief upon learning of the mass shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas? As I am representing the churches of the South Georgia Conference in a meeting of the Council of Bishops at Lake Junaluska, N.C. this week, I am constantly reminded of how much I love the local church. That is why I am so deeply saddened for such a tragedy at a local church.
You and I know that local churches are the heart and soul of our communities. While we wait for specific explanations, this tragic event can remind each of us of the importance of our own local church. Let us demonstrate our revulsion to violence by increasing our attendance at worship and by renewing our vows to be loyal to the local church with our prayers, our giving, our service, and our witness.
The Bible gives us the best words I know for expressing anguish such as what we are experiencing. I am referring to the often overlooked Psalms of Personal and Communal Lament.
Human words can seem so weak, but the Psalmist shows us how to express that which defies human expression. The Psalms of Lament are intended to be used in worship. They remind us that worship is where we bring not only our joys but also our deepest sorrows. Our offering is the offering of brokenness, hurt, and grief. Consider these words of lament from Psalm 55:
Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they prowl about its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
As for me, I call to God…
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you….
The testimony of scripture, and of Christian experience, is that lament is a way of opening our hearts for God to transform our grief into redemptive action in the church and community.
May it be so in the local churches of our conference and of our nation.
Alive Together in Christ,