A message from Fr. Geoff
A message to our faith family regarding a national tragedy.
In preparation for today’s Morning Prayer Service in the Williamsburg Room I reflected prayerfully on last night’s Celebration of New Ministry. It was a great joy to officially commemorate our common call to ministry through prayer, song, devotion, and fellowship. Thank you all.
While recalling Bishop Miller’s powerful words to ‘get out there!’ as faithful laborers to work the harvest, I think on the dreadful ache I have for the families, friends, and community of the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting. Even as we celebrate our new ministry together, it pains me profoundly to know that so many grieving people are planning to celebrate a life in memoriam that was prematurely ripped away by an act of evil.
It seems that our society is experiencing a surge of such hateful acts, leaving us with many more questions than answers. What compels a person to commit such calculated killing as the Las Vegas incident, the Nashville church shooting last week, or the Charlottesville massacre in 2015; for that matter any of the senseless murders happening daily throughout the country? It is a national tragedy for a country founded upon the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Whether inspired by racial, political, or religious ideologies, the common element among all these heinous acts is quite simply - hate. We as a society are in dire need of sober, sincere, and mutually loving dialogue on how to triangulate and eliminate hate from our discourse and, indeed our common life together. Serving up an opposing brand of hate in response to hate is simply not the answer.
The Bishops United Against Gun Violence said so aptly in their statement on the Vegas incident:
“Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other.”
With a culture indulging in a steady diet of anger and hate, it can be no wonder that the result is antithetical to serving God in unity, constancy, and peace. While a common reaction may be to distance oneself from God out of our own anger or frustration, the psalmist reminds us that it is in the face of hate and evil that in God we can truly seek refuge:
Psalm 62: 6-8
For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge.
Put your trust in him always, O people,
Pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
Refuge in God’s abundant love is much needed nourishment and refreshment for the soul; refreshment that we will need in order to have the strength to labor on with both hands on the plow, keeping it steadily moving forward. It may at times seem to be too great a labor when the laborers seem few and the feasters of hate appear to be so plentiful.
In the course of our deep outpouring of prayer for the victims, the Gospel implores us to include an appeal for those laborers. The great refreshment for our soul is witnessing them come forth; and they do! Tremendous outpouring of love from responders, providers, clergy, counselors, volunteers, and donators are inspiring evidence of movement of The Spirit.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way.
-Luke 10: 2-3
Adding our own names to the list of laborers can be looked at as both part of the prayer and an answer to it – an answer to our own prayers and those of others. I was reminded of this while speaking today with the anonymous individual who recently took great pains to restore our outdoor labyrinth.
Not a member of our church, or any other church, she took it on herself to restore beauty to what had grown over with weeds to the point of dysfunction. When asked why, she told me “I have been using the labyrinth for years and been saying for a long time, somebody has to do something about this! One day in prayer I said to myself, maybe that somebody should be me!!” She did. She went on her way – to St. Christopher’s to perform a large and loving task.
As the Fall gives way to Thanksgiving - known to be a time for feasting on gratitude, perhaps we might prepare for the feast through answering Jesus’ call to ‘Go on your way!’. A great place to start is through intentional cultivation of the respect, concern and affection that people so hunger for.
We are experiencing a national tragedy. “Someone has to do something about it”, one may say. Maybe that person should be me, or you? If we dig in, we may just find that the harvest of God’s love is of such great abundance that it continually yields a bumper crop of all things necessary to adorn a bountiful table of unity, fellowship, concord.
The celebration of new ministry together at St. Christopher’s is above all things, to me a reinforcement of the ministry that we have a common call to fulfill. We need to be there for the world around us. Let our response to God’s mission in the world, and more specifically the community around us be to collectively ‘go on our way’ - an abundance of willing laborers prepared to reap a great harvest and feast on love, compassion, and good works.
Let us start by pouring out our hearts before God, for He is our refuge.