We have all been listening this week to the pain and agony of Orlando. Over and over, I have been moved, but not sure what to say. After all, who am I to speak? I am not gay. I am not a Muslim nor an American and such brutality makes no sense, but things do need to be said. I have come back to the wise words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who I believe once preached at Yorkminster Park. He was a Lutheran pastor who spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp for his opposition to the Third Reich. Niemoller wrote,
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."
I am not gay and so I don't pretend to know or even imagine the pain and fear that has enveloped the LGBTQ community since the Sunday morning massacre in Orlando. But these are our brothers and sisters, our children, our friends and our neighbours who work and worship with us side by side. And as a follower of Christ, I must stand in solidarity with them against all hatred and fear directed at them believing this is the posture of Jesus. For God so loved the world . . .
I am not a Muslim and so I don't pretend to know or even imagine the pain and fear that has enveloped this religious community which again feels grossly misrepresented and let down by fanatical extremists and now feels afraid of potential repercussions directed their way. Are not these also our neighbours and friends? As a follower of Christ, I must stand in solidarity with them against all hatred and fear directed at them believing this too is the posture of Jesus. For God so loved the world . . .
I am not persecuted for my faith and so I can't begin to imagine the pain and fear that daily envelops Christians, Muslims, Jews, Druze and others who live in vulnerability as religious minorities around the world. Yet these are our sisters and brothers in believing. And as a follower of Christ, and as a Baptist I must champion their religious liberty and the importance of their freedom of conscience. Anything less is an assault on my own. And as follower of Christ, I must pray for all who persecute, and I must hope and believe that love will one day rule the world. For God so loves the world . . .
These are all neighbours and friends and even if someone turns out to be my enemy, I am a Christian and my first response must always be love. Jesus made it so clear. Over and over he said, "Love your neighbour as yourself . . ." "Love one another . . ." "Love your enemies and pray . . ." "For God so loved the world . . ."
And so we pray...
Loving God, forgive us for too often giving in to fear and allowing it to turn our hearts against you and against one another. We pray for your healing peace to be upon the people of Orlando and the families and loved ones who grieve. We pray too for all the bullies of this world, near and far, asking that they might encounter you in their hearts, and at last discover they are not called to be gods in this world, but that wonderfully you do love them and call them to their true meaning in love and service.
Now by the power of your Holy Spirit liberate us all to love and serve. Set us free, O God, from the slavery to sin and the fear that so easily leads us astray. Lead us instead to that day when swords will be beat into plough shares, guns into pruning sheers, and the lion and lamb will lie down together. O God, guide us by the power of your Spirit, to embrace your Kingdom's call on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Grace and Peace,