In response to the tragic shootings, my dad, a pastor in Northern Indiana, wrote and read the following at the beginnings of his services over the weekend. This is the theology foundation I grew up on, and the only kind I can continue to live life upon. If you have a moment, read it. It’s greatly helped our conversations with our children at home
I wrote the following statement to read at the start of Worship.
The prayer at the end I did not write but borrowed from Pastor Rob Fuquey of St Luke’s UMC in Indy:
We cannot Worship this morning and ignore the events of the past few days. We cannot Worship as if nothing has happened. As we do every Sunday, we Worship today in the context of the world we live in; and this morning that includes the unthinkable shootings in a school in Connecticut. You and I have experienced our reactions and moments of horror – moments that leave us wondering, “where is God in all this?”
This is not the first time – and it will not be the last time we bring this question to our mind. Evil is among us, evil has happened and it will happen again. The study of the question of God and the existence of evil is called Theodicy; and it has been at least a part time study of my own for more than twenty years. I have gone to seminars – and have read many books on the subject. And I can tell you that any answer, any conclusion given on the question of where God is at a time like this – the answer is never sufficient.
And so, at times like this, we make things up. We try to defend God and we say things like, “It must be God’s Will”. Or we say God has a plan in all this. If I thought for a single second that God had anything at all to do with the shootings in Connecticut I would be reading to you my resignation today. This horror was not God’s Will and it certainly was not his plan for these young victims.
Furthermore, as much as we wish for something to say or something to do to make sense of this, or to be of some kind of help; it will not help to crusade for more gun control or the return of prayer in schools or any of several other good and bad ideas that come to our minds.
As your pastor I can tell you one fact that I know for sure; and if I were not certain of this fact I would be avoiding this subject altogether today. This is the fact I am certain of: God in Heaven is grieving with the families of those 26 victims today. Tears, real tears are being shed in Heaven today. I know that. I believe that. I trust that.
And what it says to me is that this is not a time for explanations, this is not a time for action, this is a time for tears, and silence. Today is not a day to proclaim Christ; today is a day to be like Christ and suffer with those who are suffering. So, no matter what else we do this morning in our Worship; we will identify with all those who mourn, who cry, their tears will be our tears; their prayers – our prayers. Let us pray now together……..
You saw your people in captivity and delivered them as slaves in Egypt. You heard the cries of mothers whose children were slaughtered by the order of Herod who learned a king (our Lord) had been born in his territory. You see the works of violence in our world and weep. Relieve the suffering of the people in Newtown, Connecticut. Grant all the families and friends of these victims the comfort and help they need to get them through this seemingly unbearable tragedy. Protect us all from the violence of others. Keep us safe from those who promote hate; we pray for the day when evil will no more be among us but will be in chains forever. Restore us now to tranquility and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Rick Pettys, Pastor with the United Methodist Church