Holding Onto Charleston
The latest victims of the sins of racial hatred and murder are the brothers and sisters of Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This kind of action has happened before in other churches and schools. The forces of evil pick the good people and congregations who care about Christ, salvation, the gospel, peace, justice, and love to try to silence them. Today is not a day to be quiet. Instead, it’s a day to be reminded that the evil does not determine our perspective on the present. Through Christ, nothing will separate us from his love. He calls us to grieve, lament, repent, teach, pray, bear burdens, and reach out to a world torn apart by this kind of violence.
When a gunman walked into a school in Newtown, Connecticut and a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, people rallied to pray. The same can happen here. We lament the loss of these lives and grieve over their death. We bear the burden of the sins of racism and hatred that would drive a person to commit such heinous acts. We reach out to our friends across our community to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ that declares with one voice, “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free.” We admit that our weapons have become idols causing us pridefully to think that we can solve our problems in this way. We acknowledge that we have a crisis in our land spiritually with our boys. On this Father’s Day weekend, we as dads commit again to rearing our young men in the name of Jesus through service and sacrifice that solves problems with towels and words, not anger, hate, violence, and guns.
Imagine what the world would be like without a place like a church to pray. Imagine a world without a house of prayer for all the nations. Our greatest testimony will be when we return to church on Sunday morning to worship a risen Lord. We unite as a common people of Christian faith to say we have heard the words of Jesus in the midst of the storm: “Peace, be still,” and we will not be afraid. We will finish the prayers of those who were massacred in Charleston. We will answer their prayers by putting feet to our faith in Tallahassee. On Saturday, July 11, we join with our city and police department for Operation Safe Neighborhood, an initiative in our own community in partnership with African American Churches and neighbors. From 6:45-10:00PM, we will walk neighborhoods together and spread the good news of peace and safety. Sign up with Amy Parks if you would like to attend.
God is still working. God does not necessarily just work everything out. But God does work with all things, even the worst things imaginable. The forces of evil cannot stop the voices of Emmanuel AME Church. Our voices grow even stronger as we engage as salt, light, and peace in a difficult storm. Our voices grow as we offer prayers for the victims, their families, and Dylann Roof and his family. Our unity increases as we pray for children who may have witnessed this tragedy, as we comfort and pray for healing for the other victims, as we offer counseling to loved ones, and as we look our community in the eye and say, “We are working with you and God for the good of those who love God to those who are the called according to his purpose.” God’s work is not random. God’s work has a purpose of love that still triumphs over the worst of the forces of evil.
All this week, we’ve been climbing Mount Everest at Vacation Bible School. We’ve been saying that God has the power to provide, heal, comfort, and forgive. Our response to this message each day has been with one voice, “HOLD ON!” It’s time to “Hold On” to Jesus. He’s holding onto us, and he’s holding Charleston in his hand.