Every day this week, I’ve woken up with an extremely heavy heart. The massacre that took place in Florida is absolutely devastating — over 100 innocent people were shot by a man with a Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle at Pulse Night Club in Orlando. Forty-nine people have died and 53 people have been wounded. Due to this act of violence, we mourn for those lives that have been destroyed. We grieve with our brothers and sisters who have lost their family and friends as a result of this shooting. We lament for the LGBTQ community as they continue to struggle with constant injustice. We cry out to God with all our hearts and souls to bring love into our broken world.
This crime that was committed is rooted in evil. I can only imagine the torment this young man was going through that motivated him to make such a terrible decision. Such behavior as this is exactly what Jesus came to speak against while he was on earth. Love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and radical acceptance are examples of virtues that Jesus taught to counter acts of violence. What can we do as a community of faith? We can bring our burdens to God in prayer and meditation — seeking for God’s knowledge to help us get through a situation as horrible as this. Furthermore, we can continue to spread a message of love and be a sacred space for anyone who enters our doors regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion or lack of religion!
Monday morning, I received an email from one of our own at FCC in which she shared with me a devotional from the UCC. She wrote: “It was written for people processing Orlando, but it also applies to our church home. Sanctuaries are not just buildings and rooms.” This message struck home with her and with me as well. I invite you to read a portion of this devotion and pray it blesses you too.
Quinn G. Caldwell
“As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.'” – Matthew 24:1-2
[Fifty dead and more than 50 wounded hits hard any time and anywhere. But for many queer people, what happened at Pulse hits as hard as shootings in churches hit for Christians, as hard as shootings in black churches hit for black Christians. It’s not just the death toll. It’s not just that it was a hate crime. It’s that it happened in a sanctuary.
Here’s a true thing: Every sanctuary will be invaded, by madness or death or slow decay, sooner or later. Even the Temple in Jerusalem fell. Even the body of God was penetrated. But here’s what Christians believe: that body is still our refuge and our might. That the lord of the dance (hall) wouldn’t stay dead. That his pulse wouldn’t stop pulsing. That they couldn’t take our sanctuary away.
So as you mourn and grieve and organize today, here’s what I hope: That you do not let your sanctuary be taken from you. I hope you remember wherever it was you first found freedom and safety, and that you go back there if you can, if only in memory. I hope you go out dancing.
God, you are our refuge and our might. Your sanctuaries are everywhere, and only some of them are in churches. Give us courage to never let them be taken away. Amen.]