Pastor Mark’s eNote – Now, Sutherland Springs

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     Like a fog that will not lift, sorrow weighs upon us. Soaking slowly but surely as a storm, it damps the soul and smothers the spirit’s fire.

     The fog hangs heavy, though somewhere, surely, the sun still shines.

     A slow combustion, sorrow’s fire spreads through our soul. Cries of pain and anger are indistinguishable, the burn within inextinguishable. Tears of grief and rage taste the same. Where is justice? Can we avenge? We want something—something to restore balance, something to satisfy our wrath that so desperately seeks a target.

     The fire keeps burning. In a scorched land, it finds its fuel.

     Sorrow’s waves keep coming. Most recently, Las Vegas, New York, Sutherland Springs. How long, O Lord? What can we do?

     Having expressed the pain and questions, here is where the preacher is supposed to offer an answer … but this preacher is still searching.

     Here is what I know: There are no easy words that can bring peace to our souls and no simple, well-lit path for us as a people. More guns? Fewer guns? Surely it’s time to talk seriously about guns and mental health care, and that means actually listening to each other as well. The deep wounds of soul and psyche that birth such numbed and numbing violence are themselves born of forces within and without. The healing we seek will be personal and communal.

     And I know this: The answer involves a manger and a cross—God with us and God for us. Jesus was born among us, one of us, and died a violent and unjust death. Between manger and cross he met people where they were and loved them with a divine and healing power. The answers we seek are as spiritual as the mystery and power of God and as tangible as the person who even now shares mercy and grace with another.

     Christ lived and died for those shot down so hellishly in their church, and Christ lived and died for the one who shot them down. The worshipers knew his good news; the shooter rejected it or couldn’t hear it through the storm of his own thoughts. The heartache of November 5 is the greater for the simple truth that all who died that day bore upon their souls the image of God, and all were loved. The murdered and the murderer were all, differently, tragically lost. Ah, that all could have been saved.

     Ours is a faith for the real world; ours is a story (still being told) that confronts real hurt and pain and real evil and sin. The questions are rarely simple, but the answer is real, found not in platitudes or brute force but always in moments of real encounter and compassion when divine love is made real in flesh and blood.

     Look to the manger. It is empty now. The Word made flesh grew in wisdom and truth and walked among us, one of us. Look to the cross. It is empty now. Death has its day but not the last word. God with us, God for us, still.


In Christ,

Mark Westmoreland

Author: Mark Westmoreland

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