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In response to the recent shootings that killed eight people, including six Asian-Americans, in Atlanta and ten people in Boulder, Bishop Laurie released the following pastoral letter to Dakotas and Iowa United Methodists.
My heart echoes the psalmist’s cry: “O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!” (Psalm 83:1, NRSV)
Today, I grieve the horrific violence of the shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, at three spas and a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. In these communities, 18 people died at the hands of two shooters, both 21 years of age.
In the United States, we assume safety and comfort. It is unimaginable to think that going about our lives each day could be dangerous.
The only place we can turn is to the One who is always faithful. So, the refrain to my lament is: “Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand has provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” (United Methodist Hymnal #140)
God remains God amid the violent chaos. And God’s saving, reconciling narrative remains unwavering in the midst of hopelessness and despair.
I urge you to turn to God in prayer. Pray for all those who suffer as a result of these violent and terror-inducing acts. Pray that God will comfort the families and friends of the victims, especially our Asian-American brothers and sisters who are grieving in Atlanta. Pray for the first responders and those, including the police, who work to protect public safety. Pray for all those feeling vulnerable, isolated, insecure, and fearful. Pray for peace.
Soon we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Easter Sunday is the story of the risen Christ coming to his bewildered and frightened disciples. Easter is about the resurrected Jesus reaching out to us across the vast, dark abysses of despair, doubt, and death and saying, “Peace be with you.”
Peace is a collective responsibility that begins with each of us examining our hearts. Jesus calls each of us to “love your neighbor.” It is clear that this spiritual imperative means all neighbors without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.
Paul taught that “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions and factions” are among many works of the flesh that are antithetical to the kingdom of God. “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 19-23, NRSV) These works of the Spirit lead to peace-making and the kingdom of God.
The recent shootings leave us perplexed with our world. Friends, please know this: that God is with us. We are called to follow the example of Jesus as the peacemaker.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me; let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our creator, children all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.” (United Methodist Hymnal #431)