Rector's Ramblings October 4, 2017
Again our hearts are rent by horrific news, this time of the worst mass shooting in our nation's history. As I write this, the Las Vegas Police are reporting nearly sixty dead and more than five hundred wounded. I can barely conceive of a number that high in terms of casualties. The numbers are staggering in and of themselves, and yet as we consider how an individual could do such a thing we realize that understanding is even harder to grasp.
In the coming hours and days, we will learn more, perhaps more than we ever want to, about the shooter, his motivations, his victims, and a host of other details that news outlets are already scrounging for. In our fear and anger we will all look to lay blame somewhere, be it on gun laws, mental health laws, international terrorism, or a host of other factors. All of our attempts to lay blame come from a desire to understand the how's and the why's, and hopefully prevent another similar event in the future. It is a completely normal and expected response, and yet none of it will undo this terrible evil that has been done.
That does not mean none of those factors are to blame or could not prevent future incidents, yet they are insufficient for today as we process and try to get our brains and our hearts wrapped around such destruction and death. Details will come. Factors will be more apparent, even if perpetually debated. But here and now, today, there is little else we can do than to pray. It seems insufficient and it feels like it will never be enough, but prayer can do a great deal if we will let it.
First, we must pray for the victims and their families. Some do not yet know where their loved ones are, and have not gotten the stunning news that will surely be coming. We pray for mercy and kindness and love to surround the grieving, the injured, the scared and the broken.
Let us pray also for the first responders; the police who run towards gunfire, the EMT and hospital staff that are trained and yet never ready to endure the horror of a mass casualty event, the strangers who cared for those in need or shielded another from bullets and stampeding feet. It is a great gift that there are those who are willing to lay down their lives to help another.
We pray for the shooter's family and friends, as they try to make sense of this horror. Already we're hearing that they had no idea this was a possibility, and they will struggle to figure out what they might have done to prevent it. We also pray for the shooter himself, who was clearly sick and a tortured soul. It is not possible to do such a thing without being ill.
Let us pray for our Nation and our leaders as they sift through the findings of the investigation, that they would be able to evaluate the causes and effects of this incident without devolving into partisan lines that cannot solve problems we face. We need them to make good decisions to ensure the safety of those they are tasked with serving and protecting, and not simply yell at each other from long-entrenched positions.
We can also pray for ourselves. We can ask God to move in and through us so that we can be active and aware citizens of our democracy. We can ask God to help us with our fear of the other that can mutate into hatred. We can ask God to let us make the world a better place for all those we come in contact with, transforming it in our own back yards and our own relationships. We can all care for the lost, the lonely, the frightened, and the outcast.
This is a day of horror, and a day when we need our faith, a faith that promises that this world's hatred, suffering, and death will one day come to an end. We yearn for that day, as it seems it cannot come soon enough. And yet we know that in the middle of terror and tragedy, God is in our midst. We take comfort in that assurance, and hold onto it tightly, for it's all we can do. Be kind to yourself, and to one another. Don't spend all day watching the news. Check the updates periodically, but don't get sucked into the "tragedy as entertainment" world of cable news. Instead, spend time with those you love, call those who live far away, and shine the light of love everywhere we can. That is ultimately the only way this world will be transformed, and we can do that work here and now.
Most Gracious and Loving God, who has set the world in motion and placed us into it for our sustenance and care, be with us this day in the midst of terror and horror we cannot fathom. Bless us with your peaceful presence that we might know you in the stillness of our hearts.
We pray for the victims of this latest tragedy, those who have lost their lives, those who are fighting for theirs, those who are injured, and those who love them. We pray for those who care for the wounded and the dead.
We pray for responders who risk everything to protect and serve, and who are your healing hands on this side of heaven in caring for victims of this and any injury or illness.
We pray for love to flow through us and replace the anger and the hatred we feel. Without your love, the world will be worse off, and we are the best vessels to share that love today, and every day.
We pray for our nation as it mourns this tragedy together. Let us find unity in our shared grief and heal the wounds of our divisions, so that we can all work together for the common good.
Bless us today with joys and grace as we struggle to make sense of the unknowable. Grant us peace in the midst of our unrest, and let us look to a day when your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray these things in the name of your son, Jesus, who has showed us the way of love and service, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.