I write to you today after yet another tragic mass killing perpetrated by someone whose hate and fear overwhelmed them. Early Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla., nearly 50 lives were lost, more injured, and untold numbers of families radically changed forever. As I grieve this tragedy, I hope to reach out to you with a word of comfort and hope.
That comfort starts with me. As many of you know, I grew up in a small city outside of Orlando and many of my friends still live in the region. As the news of the shooting unfolded, I watched as my friends, people I have known since childhood, were marked “safe” on Facebook. And I watched as some of those same friends posted pictures of their friends, people I will never have the chance to meet, who were slain in Pulse nightclub. I am heartbroken for those who died, for my friends who lost loved ones, and for all of us who have been reminded, once again, that life is precious and often too short.
At Calvary, we know that God loves everyone, no exceptions. We know that our faith in the risen Christ gives us the power to overcome wickedness and evil. But at times like these, finding hope in that faith can seem so very difficult. We know that life is precious, and nothing is certain, but no matter how uncertain life may be, killings like these sting all the more because we could do more to help prevent them. No, we cannot on our own prevent evil from ever breaking through, but we can work to be more sensible in our common life, work to bring about the hopefulness of God’s kingdom on earth today.
So today, I invite you to act. First, take action in prayer. Prayer is a gift from God for us. Prayer helps center us on what we know to be true, on the depth of God’s love for every human being. Prayer can guide us on our way. After you pray, get up and do what God moves you to do. Get up and take action in a way that authentically claims your faith in love. Care for a friend, feed a stranger, write to your leaders, talk to your neighbors — whatever you do, do something in the name of love that helps make our world a better place tomorrow than it is today.
Calvary has a unique role to play in our city. We have the capacity to impact real change for the good. Our voices can and must be the voices that claim the truth of God’s love for all people, so do not be afraid to claim it!
To our LGBTQ friends, know that you are loved and welcomed at Calvary. Know that we grieve with you, that we do not accept hate, and that we believe above all else that love wins. To our Muslim friends who are in the midst of the holy season of Ramadan and who despise and denounce these acts of violence, know that we stand with you, too. This act of terror is not what God hopes for any of us, and we know we can work together to transform hate into love.
Let us not be overwhelmed by fear, controlled by anger, or swallowed in grief. Let us root our hope in the words of Jesus who announces good news to us: The kingdom of God has come near. The kingdom of God has indeed come near and is alive in each one of us.
May we all have the strength to pray, the courage to act, and the faith to love with abundance!
In peace and hope,