Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thinking about Esther on the Day of the Worst Mass Shooting

As I was writing Sunday, I knew that there had been a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, but there had been a shooting at a nightclub the night before too, and that's what stuck out in my mind.  Why two nights in a row in Orlando?

We didn't realize yet that the shooting at the nightclub Pulse would be the largest mass shooting in the nation's history.

I was the presiding minister at church Sunday because my pastor was away at Synod Assembly, so I left the house much earlier than is usual for a Sunday.  As I drove to church and listened to the news, I realized that the body count was higher than first thought, up to 20, and I thought, we should pray for the victims and their families, and for all of us affected by violence.

I added that to the prayers, but I didn't think to alter my sermon.   I talked about Esther, with some references to Hillary Clinton, and using the advantages we have, since most women across the globe are still constrained, but God can use us where we are to work for God's vision of freedom.  I tried to stay away from the angry feminist angle--I decided that the poem I had gotten was enough. I pointed out that Esther had youth and beauty on her side, but had significant strikes against her: exile, Jew, orphan, female. I kept in mind that there would be children who might not understand what a harem is, and I didn't go into that too much. I got compliments, but I am aware that by bringing in the historic aspect of Hillary's campaign that some might have thought I was inappropriate--but I didn't endorse her, since I know to be careful with that. It is historic, like her or not. Other countries have achieved this milestone long before we did. 

I could have talked about the nightclub shooting when I talked about Esther's marginalized status--but my sermon was already treading a careful line between being prophetic and being too political, so maybe it's better that I didn't.  I asked my spouse if he thought I had been too political, and he said, "You came close, but you saved yourself by saying, 'Let's turn our attention back to Esther.'"

But he also pointed out that several rows of older women were nodding and smiling; he had a clear view of the congregation from his seat in the choir.  That made me happy.

I'm pleased with the way that the three services went Sunday.  Even though I wasn't aware that the nightclub shooting was as bad as it was, I wouldn't change much about the services if I could travel back in time.  I'm glad that I had presence of mind to add a reference to the shooting in the prayers.  We didn't have time to organize a blood drive, or to do anything more concrete.

I'm reminded of a conversation with a friend when we heard about a colleague's dreadful health news--the friend reminded me that prayer was our best response to most situations.  But I'm also sympathetic to those who want a bit more action.

There will be time for all these responses in the week to come.

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