I am leading today’s Bible study. We will process Las Vegas together.
An article by the Washington post defines a mass shooting as an incident in which 4 or more people are killed or injured by gunfire. This week, our country experienced an incident in which at least 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, by gunfire. The Washington Post is calling this the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, not so long after the most recent deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, a hate –fueled attack on Pulse night club last year.
We need to process this. So, today’s Bible study time will be a time of prayer and reflection, a safe space to talk about feelings.
What does it feel like to wake up each day knowing that somewhere in America, someone is going to be shot to the point of wounding at best, death at worst; and that today might just outdo the most recent “deadliest mass shooting in modern American history?”
For a lot of people, including me, it feels fearsome and heavy. Kind of like, maybe what the followers of Christ felt when they had barricaded themselves behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, and Jesus came and stood among them and said, “peace be with you.” Today, like those early Christians, we find ourselves barricaded and trapped by fear, longing for Christ to come and stand among us and say “peace be with you.”
How does Christ’s peace help you think through things like this? What are some of the promises of Christ in scripture that you turn to during personal or national tragedy?
For me, a person who enjoys quite a bit of privilege in this country, it’s at best, sobering and at worst; at the very worst when a tragedy like this happens, it’s kind of numbing. I’m struggling to feel, do you know what I mean? Who would have ever thought that waking up to the news of a shooting somewhere in America would be as common place as getting out of bed each day?
Today, I feel burdened. Burdened for the cloak of darkness that envelopes a society that refuses to prioritize mental health care, that worships guns, that makes values decisions based on skin color, sexual orientation, physical appearance, the ability of one to articulate him or herself well, and cares very little about what truly lies deep inside the heart of a person.
How do you feel today?
What do you need to hear from Jesus today?
I keep repeating to myself the words of Jesus to his followers: “peace be with you.” And “do not be afraid for I am with you.”
What about you?
It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to feel angry, sad, helpless or burdened; numb, in denial, shocked, panicked. It’s ok to feel scared, worried, distressed. We can feel these things, and also carry the promise that Christ is with us, even in our fear, or despair, or whatever we are feeling.
And we don’t have to dwell on those feelings, but I do want to create a safe space to name them, if that’s what you are feeling, because when something like this happens, it can create a slew of feelings and thoughts we might not know what to do with. It’s best to process those feelings.
Jesus gave us examples of how to process intense feelings: weeping when Lazarus died, moved to distress to the point that his sweat was like drops of blood.
This is a safe space to share those thoughts, with the group or just acknowledging them to yourself to deal with later. You can come and talk to me, or Greg at a later time if you need to; however you are dealing with and processing what happened in Las Vegas this week, a tragedy at human hands, or even the tremendous losses due to natural disasters, know that you have people in your corner on the church staff who are dealing and processing as well.
How are you feeling?
This country has a problem. It has misplaced its priorities and bred a culture of hate, division, fear of people who are different, and a love of guns and violence. We need to spend some time in prayer today for victims and families, for each other as we each grieve and reflect, and learn to move forward until the next national tragedy.
Let’s spend some time in prayer for peace and change, and anything else that is on your minds. Last Sunday, we enjoyed a joyous celebration of the unity we have through Christ. Today, let’s find time to mourn and let arguments fall to the wayside for a bit, as we lift so many hurting people in prayer; knowing that, though it may be of little comfort right now, we carry the love of Christ within us, a love that has the power to unite people across dividing lines.
The text I selected for our Bible study today has a word for us in this time. In Jesus’ home town, he stands up to speak in the synagogue and lays before them his mission:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because it has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And then he sits down, and centuries later, we find ourselves imbued with the same spirit, the same calling to proclaim good news to all – the poor, women, foreigners, people whose skin or sexual orientation, or manner of speaking, or mental stability, or levels of ability don’t match ours or don’t match what a perfection-loving culture says is the best.
We have good news of freedom.
Freedom from limitations placed on one person by another, freedom from fear, freedom from the need to be in control. The spirit that was upon Jesus is also upon us to make us, the body of Christ, “communities of welcome, reconciliation, and sharing that respects all aspects of human dignity – of everyone” (Ruth C. Duck)”
We are the words of Christ made flesh – empowered by the spirit to search and find a new way forward; a way of love and peace.