It can be hard to see the sun's beautiful light on a day darkened by tragedy and loss. It seems so utterly at odds with the pain and the shock. Yet it is at those times we most need to gaze into the light. I received this letter today from a local minister. I share it here because it says so much that I feel and others feel today. I share it because, while it faces the darkness of tragedy, it also affirms the light that never leaves us---if we gaze upon it, into it, and share it. In that spirit, I share the letter below from Pastor Melanie Martínez to her congregation in a small city in North Texas.
It is with deep sadness that I am writing you today, having just learned that our nation's community has suffered a great tragedy this morning. I'm writing to ask you for your fervent prayer for the families of victims killed in an elementary school shooting. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, school home to approx. 700 students, fell victim to an unnamed gunman who is responsible for the deaths of more than 20 children and adults.
Though this tragedy has occurred well away from our community in Texas, the impact of such a horrific event certainly rips through our sense of safety and security all across the nation. The question "Why?" tugs at our hearts as we consider the great losses suffered by parents and families of those hurt and killed.
During such a moment, we may be tempted to shut ourselves away from this world of uncertainty. We may be tempted to foster hatred for those responsible. We may be tempted to blame God for not stepping in.
As people of faith, though, we know that God's presence is sure and true...even in situations and places where we do not readily see or feel God's goodness. Still, we trust in an almighty God who is present in each one of us and can be shown through us. The community in Newtown is offering exactly that presence through their immediate attention, care, outpouring of love, and the many acts of kindness to the children and adults who experienced the shooting. It is in community that we regain safety; that we again rest on the certain love of God. Make time to be with your community of faith, wherever and whatever that community is, and experience the presence of God for you.
We know that hatred begets further injury to ourselves and within our closest relationships. If hate begins to well up in your heart, I encourage you to release that to God's care. Anger is natural and reasonable...Jesus got angry when anger was justified. Be angry and work some act of love and comfort in response. Your response in love will keep hatred from growing among us.
We do not claim to know the mystery of God. We do know the frailty of human beings. As the details of this shooting and the stories of the children and loving adults whose lives were cut too short begin to flood into our awareness, listen for the still small voice of God in your life. Take the opportunity to share with others your deep love for them, and receive others' love and appreciation for you. Rest your thoughts in ways you can engage in preventing violence in future, even as you fill your thoughts with all the precious grace that God offers.
As you share time with friends and family for the holidays...be those holidays in the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Islam, Sikh, or any other sacred tradition...hold the families of those who have been injured or killed today close to heart. Their holidays will be full of suffering, and as the Apostle Paul tell us, "If one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Corinthians 12:26a). Send your prayers for their comfort. Send your hopes for their healing. Remember them...for it is in doing so that we honor God's creation and all those God loves.
May peace and love be with you all,
~ Pastor Mel
Copyright Rev. Melanie Martínez, all rights reserved.