I hope you were able to join us for worship every week that you can, as I think it is so important for the community of God to gather with one another. If you aren’t able to join us in person, I hope you are able to view our services online. It is a wonderful ministry of the church that these services are recorded and streamed, and a huge thanks to Dottie Hunt for making that possible for us.
On Sunday, May 29th, I was not scheduled to preach. Anne Cumings, from Tucker First UMC, came to be with us and gave us a wonderful message about the difference between self-denial and self-sacrifice. It is an important distinction and gets to the root of so many struggles we face on a daily basis. The 29th was also the Sunday following the horrible tragedy in Uvalde, TX, where 19 4th graders and their 2 teachers lost their lives to the hands of another mass shooter. When I met Anne before the service she asked, are you going to say anything about it? I told her I was during the pastoral prayer but didn’t have the words yet. I hope the prayer was healing and helpful for you because it was for me. It starts around the 14:15 mark in the YouTube recording of the service, which you can view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF5VSdUy4zM.
When I first heard the news of the shootings, both in Uvalde and in Buffalo, NY, I felt the familiar feeling of heartbreak wash over me. It brought me back to my feelings of being a high school sophomore when Columbine happened. I began to feel like I did when I was a youth minister and I was working with college students when the Virginia Tech Massacre happened. Marjorie Stone Douglas, Newtown, and Charleston. The feeling is a hopeless and helpless one, and I hate it.
I’ve started to get the emails again, the emails about political action that MUST be taken. The angry vitriol. I also get the emails that are trying to sell bullet-proof backpacks and pew cushions. The message is a consistent one; protect yourself, because there is always a threat. There is nothing that we can do about the threat, so protect yourself.
So I began to wonder, what can we do? Do we need to invest in bulletproof pews, or have an armed guard at every building (which, we have seen, does not guarantee safety)? So I began to search. There is a March for Our Lives rally happening on June 11th at Ebenezer Baptist Church, we could go to that. We could write letters to people in Congress or Senators. I have my own thoughts about what should be done with gun control and am happy to share those thoughts.
But as I was spiraling into hopelessness and powerlessness, I prayed. I put myself in a position of prayer and listened. I shared my feelings with my wife who knows how much I care and struggle with this particular issue (I’ve been to the marches, and rallies, joined the political action committees, wrote the letters, and took every opportunity when the sheriff was a member of my congregation to be that annoying presence in his office), and she told me, you are doing what you can. I continue to hold onto the belief that the best security you are ever going to have is knowing your neighbors. Knowing when they are struggling, and having the strength to intervene when there is struggle. Learning people’s names, and manners. Having honest conversation. I think this goes to what Jesus told us was the greatest commandment; love God, and love your neighbors. If we hold fast to this, in every aspect of our lives, then I pray we will see the day promised in Revelation, a day where all the tears are wiped dry. Until that day, let us love God and our neighbor with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The organization mentioned in Jordan’s letter:
March for Our Lives “Born out of a tragic school shooting, March for Our Lives is a courageous youth-led movement dedicated to promoting civic engagement, education, and direct action by youth to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence.”
Upcoming March for Our Lives Events
June 11, 2022, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET
Ebenezer Baptist Church, 101 Jackson St NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
June 11, 2022, 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM ET
Gainesville Square: 112 Bradford St NE, Gainesville, GA 30501
June 11, 2022, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET
Marietta Square, 99 S Park Sq NE, Marietta, GA 30060
June 11, 2022, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ET
Snellville Towne Green, 2437 Main St E, Snellville, GA 30078