Las Vegas

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God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

Ten days ago our Facebook feeds were glutted with opinions about professional athletes protesting during the national anthem. But overnight that electronic landscape shifted to memes that said, “Pray for Las Vegas.” Prayer is certainly the right response when tragedy strikes, prayers for peace and comfort. But I think that “Pray for Las Vegas” is also an insufficient response from the Christian community.

I went back to a pastoral letter written by ELCA bishops in 2013 in response to gun violence in America. I commend it to you as well. You can read it here. In addition to some thoughtful commentary the bishops suggested a three-step response that I continue to find helpful when I’m feeling helpless as I am these days. The bishops wrote:

In the Large Catechism Luther says, “We must not kill, either by hand, heart, or word, by signs or gestures, or by aiding and abetting.” Violence begins in the human heart. Words can harm or heal. To focus only on guns is to miss the depth of our vocation. Yet, guns and access are keys to the challenges we face. We recognize that we serve in different contexts and have different perspectives regarding what can and should be done. But as we live out our common vocations, knowing that the work will take many forms, we are committed to the work of reducing and restraining violence. This shared work is a sign of our unity in Christ.

We invite you, our sisters and brothers, to join us in this work:

  • The work of lament – creating safe space for naming, praying, grieving, caring for one another, and sharing the hope in God’s promise of faithfulness
  • The work of moral formation and discernment – listening to scripture, repenting, modeling conflict resolution in daily life, addressing bullying, conducting respectful conversations, and discerning constructive strategies to reduce violence
  • The work of advocacy – acting to address the causes and effects of violence

To their list I would add one more step: hope. We don’t often think about hope as something we “do” but I believe that hope is both a gift and a choice. It’s a gift given by promise through the One who says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And hope is a choice we make over hopelessness in the face of things we cannot control.

A friend of mine posted this beautiful and hope-filled quote that I’m holding onto:

What I see around me would drive me insane if I did not know that no matter what happens, God will have the last word. – Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Bernie Dusich

    With all the calamity that swirls around us, I love your last quote- God will truly have the last word!

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