A Word from the Pastor in a Difficult Week

This past Monday, we were all shocked to see Nashville added to the list of cities that have experienced a school shooting. As reports came in that morning, our hearts broke at the news of innocent children and dedicated teachers and staff losing their life at the hands of a troubled individual. At that moment, there simply weren’t words adequate to express my anguish and sorrow. All I could do was look to God and ask for mercy on us all.

How to respond to this horrific situation has been on all of our hearts. Some immediately moved to prayer, which is necessary in times like these. Others found that praying seemed inadequate given the continuing reports of troubled people using assault weapons to take the lives of innocents. What was clear, I think, for all was the sense that our world is broken and that we cannot continue to live in a world where children live in fear at the place where they go to learn.

This event also reminded me that even though we are part of a large and vibrant city, Nashville in many ways is still a small town. While I didn’t know Katherine Koonce (the headmaster at Covenant School) personally, her husband Dick had been my Young Life leader and mentor back when I was in high school. And, I was reminded that the primary reason that our friend Brian Hanson’s family left Nashville to live overseas was due to the fear that Brian’s grandchildren experienced when they had to go through active shooter drills at school. This event touches all of us, and I’m sure that we all feel deep pain and confusion in response.

So, where do we go from here?

There are no easy answers to that question. For far too long we have heard our leaders promise to improve mental health access and treatment only to see those promises abandoned after the news cycle is over. Every time an event like this happens we hear about easy access to weapons that have no other purpose than to kill other humans but never see any action taken to try and limit access to those who want to harm others. We have turned our schools and churches into fortresses, only to learn that someone determined to wreak havoc will find a way to do so.

We can continue to live in fear, something that our politicians seem all too willing to exploit, or we can actively work to make our world a place where the troubled are cared for, where children feel safe and secure, and that recognizes that we are all in this together. We can embrace the example of Jesus, who humbled himself even to the point of death, so that others (us) might live. We can practice love in action, realizing that it will take all of us coming together to bring forth God’s beloved community.

We will disagree on how to do this . . . and that may be where prayer is important, for it’s difficult to hate another when we are on our knees together asking God to be at work in our lives and the world. Praying together helps us all remember that we are broken people in need of God’s grace and that all of us approach God’s throne equally. Communal prayer brings us together rather than splitting us apart. And, until the day comes when we study war no more, prayer keeps us rooted in the one who makes all things new.

Tonight our city will gather for prayer at the Courthouse at 5:30 p.m. and I encourage all who are able to participate. While I am unable to attend due to previous commitments, it would be great for City Road Chapel to be part of the cloud of witnesses longing for Nashville to be a loving and safe place.

However, if you want and need to pray with others, I want to remind you that every Wednesday at 2 p.m., a group gathers together via Zoom to pray for one another, our church, and our world. Given what has happened this week, it would be great to have as many people as possible be a part of this virtual gathering. To learn more please visit https://cityroadchapel.org/prayer/wednesdayprayer/

Finally, I leave you with this prayer that I shared as the news was coming in:

O Lord, there are no answers
to fully explain the pain we feel today.
Today, mothers and fathers
are holding on to the children they have,
while others are grieving the children they don’t.
We all feel pain, hurt, and betrayal,
and are overwhelmed as we wonder
how this can happen again.
God of us all, we need your comfort.
God of us all, we need your peace.
God of us all, we need your love.
And, God of us all, we ask for the wisdom to recognize
that a world in which children have to run away in fear
due to a person with a gun is never acceptable.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

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