I had a normal eventless Saturday. In light of the news, I guess I should say I had a good Saturday. I went to the farmer’s market and picked up some of Joe’s Brauts for dinner. I took the boys to Waynesboro for back to school shopping, perhaps that like families in El Paso. We played cards in the evening. I went to bed aware that a horrific shooting took place in El Paso, TX. Sunday morning, Melanie Rhodes, our assisting minister asked if she should include a prayers for the shooting victims. I said, “please.” It was in the prayers of the people that I learned that a second shooting had taken place in Dayton, OH. Had I known the second shooting had happened, I probably would have changed my message for the day. I had a normal Saturday, and many families wished they had a normal Saturday.
The statistics vary and different people track different numbers. By one set of numbers, there have been more mass shootings than days in 2019. The United States has experienced 255 mass shootings, defined by incidents where four or more people have been shot. Also, the United States has experienced 17 deadly mass shootings in 2019, where four or more people were killed in a shooting incident or string of related incidents. That is more than one mass shooting every day and more than two deadly mass shootings a month. Either way that is a powerful amount of grief.
During the month of July, I read the book of Ezekiel. One of the three great prophets and four major prophets of the Bible. I told my congregation on Sunday that reading Ezekiel truly weighed me down with the grief of our heavenly Father. In Ezekiel somewhere there are words to express the grief I feel at listening to the reports of these tragedies and the hollow sounding talking points that followed. Now, I have a strong need and a strong desire to shift to the hope of the Heavenly Father that comes to his creation in Christ Jesus. I have told my congregation that I will read the gospel of Luke next in search of the words that describe the hope that comes from Christ.
There are other ways in which I will respond. On Thursday evening, many of us will gather at Grace Waynesboro for a prayer service. I know some people roll their eyes at “thoughts and prayers.” Still we gather not as a media spotlight, but because we need to gather and we want to pray. I will also change my donation to the Violence Policy Center from an annual gift to a monthly donation. I will post details about the prayer gathering on our Facebook page. And I will give thanks to those who have found stronger words to express their thoughts, their grief, and their hope.