Come together, right now

Published 5:28 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

Three weeks ago, I was in Charleston, S.C. I went to see Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of a prayer-meeting shooting one year ago that killed numerous church and community leaders.

I was moved by the highway signs of support that linger around the city. In the wake of the hate-filled act of one person, others responded with Christ-inspired mercy and compassion.

My travels took me around Florida, eventually to Orlando, then home. 

The next day, I saw the horrific news of the nightclub shooting that killed or injured over 100 people. Again, one person’s hate had reached out to strike others.

The target was a community about which many conversations and opinions swirl in our current culture. The broad response of people has been horror, compassion and sympathy for the pain of others regardless of our differences.

As a faith-leader, I have heard many questions. How did this happen? Why did God let it happen? I even heard one speaker declare this was divine judgment; I disagree with that evaluation as much in this case as when the victims have been in churches, shopping malls or schools.

There have been many opinions about what we should do. Some have suggested that the right and most immediate response to any threat is to trump the firepower of another with force they cannot hope to match. 

Others offer a fatalistic “what can we do” response. Neither is what was modeled by Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians proclaim as God-among-us. His early followers expressed it this way: “Do not be overcome by evil, but respond to evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

In Christ, God rescues us, reclaims us and re-directs us to be agents of God’s grace in a broken world.

Christ came to hold us in God’s love, to heal us by it and to have us in turn hold and heal others.

Indeed, this way of living has radically altered the course of history — not once, but multiple times. The Christian witness is pivotal: “Greater is The One who is in you, than the one that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

If ever there were a time the church had a witness and purpose, it is now. If you are a Christian, get back to worship this week. Be reclaimed together by the Word and Spirit of Christ. Get ready to live it. 

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. His email address is mkendall@farmvilleumc.org.