Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shooters in the Sanctuary

At 5 a.m., I am glued to the radio, wishing for more information, feeling that irritation about every story that isn't about the shooting in a Charleston church last night.

I lived in the Charleston area for five years.  My first thought was that no one I know would have been at a prayer meeting that started at 9 p.m. at an A.M.E. church.

But I lived in South Carolina for 9 years before moving to the coast of the state.  My spouse and I started thinking of all the people who might, in fact, have been at a downtown church for a prayer meeting.

I've been seeing Facebook posts that remind me of how interconnected we all are, as humans, and how small a place Churchworld is.  The pastor went to the ELCA seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.  Facebook reminds me of how many pastors I know who also attended that school.

Of course, even if I knew not a soul, even if the shooting took place in a different country, I'd still feel that sense of shock.  A shooting--at a church?

And my cynical self says, "Why not a church?  We have shootings at elementary schools."

We ask, "Is nothing sacred?"

At first, it seems nothing is sacred.  But as the morning progresses, and I see more and more Facebook posts imploring us all to pray for Charleston or posts that express deep sorrow, I have to answer, "Yes.  We still hold much sacred."

I don't find reason for joy when a man walks into a sanctuary and starts shooting.  But I do find comfort that this shooting still makes so many of us respond in shock and horror.  We want to believe that children can be safe at school.  We want to be able to gather after darkness descends and not be gunned down for our efforts.

Nope, that's not the world we live in.  When we gather to pray at my church after dark, we lock the doors.

But I can remember that the world we live in is not God's vision for this world.  We live in a creation that's in progress, not one that's finished.

And the sorrow and lamentation of so many people means that I am not alone in longing for a world that is safer.  We can--and probably will--worry about how to make it safer.  We might even argue that safety is an illusion.

Christ does not promise us a safe life--quite the opposite.  But Easter promises us that death doesn't have the last word.

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