The Oasis - August 7, 2019
Author: Rev. Estelle Margarones
August 07, 2019
Prayer and Encouragement in the Wake of Violence, Rev. Estelle Margarones
I write, keenly aware that many are still feeling shock, grief, and outrage following two mass shootings over the weekend. Those acts of violence brought the number of incidents to 251 this year. That’s more mass shootings than days of the year thus far.
It’s been twenty years since Columbine and seven since Newtown; two events that shook us to the core. And yet the violence has continued; this year in a store filled with back-to-school shoppers, a concert, a nightclub, a university, a church, an elementary school, a restaurant, a holiday party, a military base, an immigrant detention center, a municipal center, a movie theatre, a synagogue, a high school, and a bar. Disparate venues linked together by virtue of being sites of tragedy.
We likely have the same questions. How does someone get so filled with hate that they would commit such a heinous sin? Why have lives been cut tragically short? Why must victims’ families and friends carry agonizing pain? Why is mental illness stigmatized and untreated? Why are systems failing?
If you have wondered, “How could God let this happen?” and “What is God doing about this?”, I share this story: A man yelled up at God, “God, there are people without food here! There are people who don’t have access to the medicine they need! There are good, kind, helpful people whose lives are being violently taken for no reason! Why don’t you do something about it?!” God replied, “I did. I created you.”
It was St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Lord, make me be an instrument of your peace…” These words call each of us to share a sign of God’s love in the world. Each of us has the power to be instrumental in bringing peace to our community, our country, and our world.
I recently became aware of the following work, called a Franciscan benediction and it is in the tradition of the teachings of St. Francis. May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you, with justice and grace, can do what others claim cannot be done.
If one of your questions has been, “What difference can I make?”, please know that you can make a difference! In the 1980’s, when I worked on the radio, I was directed to make reference to those things that people in offices around the city would be discussing around the water cooler or at their coffee break. You can talk about it. Share your perspective. In the 1990’s, when I was the Massachusetts Director of Media Advocacy for the American Cancer Society; a legislator told me that if she got 10 letters from constituents, she considered it an important issue. You can write to your elected officials. Share how you’ve been impacted. Share your ideas for possible solutions. In the 2000’s, I became a minister to preach and teach the gospel. The word ‘gospel’ means “good news”. The good news is that God is real and God’s comfort, peace, hope, healing, and strength are available to you. You can pray. Pray for the victims, their families, responders, and all affected. The good news is that you are a precious child of God and God’s love is made manifest through human loving kindness. You can put your faith into works whether it’s by giving blood or making a donation of time or money…by writing or calling or visiting…by speaking words of love, acting out of love, and living a life of love.
In June, a group of First Parish leadership (including your pastors and members of church council, diaconate, and buildings & grounds) had a safety assessment with the York Police. We did a walk-through of our campus with specific regard for disruptive behavior. We have recently put procedures into practice and our coordination continues on a comprehensive protocol.
Please join me in prayer: Holy Creator, Loving God, please surround the grieving with Your love, Your strength, and Your peace. We lift the souls of the fallen unto You, O God. Hold them close. Be with us at this time and let Your love fill our hearts. Let us be moved by the Holy Spirit so that we may be energized and inspired to truly be instruments of Your peace. Though we see unimaginable trauma in the world today, we know that in Jesus, there is infinite hope. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.