Words are hard right now. It's taken me all day to process the terrorist attack from early this morning. How do I respond to such an event? I'll tell you how I respond, how we as followers of Christ are to respond. These will be strong words, so if you are faint of heart or are offended easily you might not want to read them.
A terrorist attack is designed to do two things: 1. destroy - lives and property, 2. instill fear.
As a follower of Christ, we are told so many times to, "Fear Not!". Our first response is to do just that to the cowards who would attempt to make us cower in fear. We must as a community stand up and speak out. We will not allow fear to cause us to react with violence, hatred, or revenge. Certainly we are angry, anger is justified, but Christ disarmed all Christians when he disarmed Peter when he cut off the servants ear when the authorities came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10 and Matthew 26:51). Christians do not fight with violence or hatred - we fight with love, forgiveness, and our fearlessness. For we know that our hope is grounded in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate us from the love and hope we have in Christ.
That hope, however, does not take away the pain and grief we feel at the loss of our brothers and sisters. Even Jesus himself grieved and cried when his friend Lazarus died. Tears and sorrow are not unChristian.
Who or what is to blame for this tragedy? Some will say Muslims, others mental health, and yet others gun control. I blame any person who does not speak up and speak out against hatred, bigotry, and violence. I blame any person who teaches hatred, bigotry, or violence. I especially blame the Christian preachers and pastors who teach a fasle Gospel of hate, exclusion, intolerance. I don't have to name names - you know who you are. The ones who preach that a child is destined to hell for loving another person and yet they have their hands down a child's pants. The preacher who preaches that being gay is somehow disordered and sinful. I blame a church who teaches that a gay person is somehow flawed, defective, sinful and yet they hide their pedophiles and then claim moral authority. I blame a culture that glorifies violence and guns over peace and diplomacy. I blame a country that spends more on military spending than all other spending combined to the detriment of its citizens who struggle with mental health. I blame a country who is so focused on putting and keeping a gun in every person's hand that it ignores the facts.
Regardless of who is the blame, it is up to us to change things. It is up to those who follow Christ's teaching to Love God and Love our neighbors to stand up and say enough is enough. We will not tolerate you distorting the Gospel any longer.
The Gospel reading from this morning was Luke 7:36-8:3. You know the story of the "woman in sin" who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and dries them with her hair and then anoints them with ointment and kisses them. This woman who was probably a prostitute was said to have understood Jesus more than the Pharisee Simon. You know the Pharisee's were the religous folk who followed the Jewish Law precisely, they were very proud of themselves for being so faithful to the rituals and laws. They thought they were perfect and that they had earned God's favor. Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee how wrong he is in judging the woman who approached Jesus with such faith and devotion. Jesus included this "woman in sin" rather than excluding her. He told Simon in no uncertain terms that he was in the wrong. Jesus didn't scold the woman, didn't make the woman express some sort of creed or statement of faith. He saw that she had faith and told her she was saved because of it and to go in peace. Notice Jesus didn't say, you have to change and promise never to sin again before he accepted her and forgave her. He didn't ridicule her, make her stand in front of everyone and recount her sins and ask for forgiveness. He saw in her true faith and accepted her as she was -- A beautiful child of God!
SFOCC will say a Mass of Remembrance for our brothers and sisters in Orlando who lost their lives at Pulse. We will gather to show solidarity.
In times of tragedy, it can sometimes feel as though we are helpless to do anything when the tragedy is far away. We are not helpless. This horrible tragedy is an attempt to scare us back into hiding. Joining together to celebrate, remember, and pray for our brothers and sisters is an act of defiance in the face of fear and hatred. As Christians we can't use violence against another person for it violates the image of God within each of us; we can however, defy hatred and fear by standing up and being seen.