Today is Sunday. It is a day for me to gather with my community of faith for worship. I am tasked with sharing good news of God's realm. I preach a message of God's reign that includes love, peace, justice, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Our opening hymn invited us to sing: "There's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea; there'a kindness in God's justice, which is more than liberty" (F.W. Faber). My sermon drew from Luke 7:36-8:3, a text that speaks of Jesus' grace to one whom the community considers a sinner, and thus is excluded from the community. But in his own way, Jesus restored her to full fellowship in the community. That is what the day was supposed to entail. I preached that sermon, but unfortunately during the time of prayer I had to draw our attention to the events in Orlando.
When I woke up this morning, I ate my breakfast as I watched on the news reports of another horrific shooting. This time the location was a gay bar in Orlando. The shooter, a radicalized Muslim. At that point the details were sketchy. Maybe twenty, maybe more might be dead. The reports suggested that another 42 had been taken to the hospital. After church I learned that death toll had risen to fifty. I learned that this was the worst mass shooting in American history. The question that the news reports raised concerned motive. Was this an act of terror inspired by ISIS or was it a hate crime directed against the LGBT community. As the day wears on it appears that it is both. It is an ISIS inspired act of hate.
In my prayer this morning I didn't share either the identity of the perpetrator or the identity of the victims. I just asked that we pray that hate would end and grace and healing be extended to the families and friends who died, as well as healing for those who were wounded.
As one who seeks to be an ally to both the Islamic community and the LGBT community I feel for both communities. One community reels from the stigma attached to them by another act of terror, a stigma I know doesn't belong on my Muslim friends. This isn't representative of Islam, but extremists have taken hold of bits and pieces of Islam to justify acts of hatred (this time against gay folk). The LGBT community reels from grief knowing that once again their community, which is quite diverse, has been targeted. As brother to a gay man and pastor to a number of gay folks, I empathize with them, knowing that they weep for those who have been made a target of hate.
The Psalm for today is Psalm 5. Perhaps it can speak to our concerns and offer us hope in the midst of our mourning. May justice be done, so that hate will not prevail. May those who weep find refuge in God's presence.