On June 12, my Sunday began like every other Sunday. The alarm went off at 6 a.m., followed by my habitual tap of the snooze button. As I slowly woke up, I began thinking about all the tasks I had for the day. Nothing out of the ordinary for a pastor on a Sunday: preparations for morning worship, reviewing my sermon in my head, remembering that day’s guest teacher and the meetings I had scheduled for that afternoon. Again, nothing out of the ordinary for a pastor on a Sunday morning.
But then I grabbed my phone to peek in on the world and see what had happened while I rested safely in my bed. Twenty confirmed dead at a nightclub in Orlando. Another mass shooting.
My slow waking and thoughts of ordinary tasks for the day quickly evaporated at this news. No specific details yet, but certainly more news to come. I got myself ready for the day and stepped out the door as a pastor in a community where most still rested safely in their beds with no news of the tragedy which had taken place on the other side of our country. I drove to church and did my ordinary Sunday morning tasks: unlocked the church building, turned on lights, printed out my sermon, made a cup of coffee. As I sat at my desk and took the first sip of coffee, I looked at my computer.
Now, 49 confirmed dead at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando. Another mass shooting. Another hate crime against a marginalized group in our society.
My heart sank deeper. People began coming in for church. At our first service, I stumbled through a prayer for those who had lost their lives, for their families, for the country, for our world and for an end to violence. I then went about the ordinary business of the church on Sunday morning: prayers, scripture, sermon, sacraments. At our second service, I again stumbled through a prayer for this horrific act and then went about the ordinary tasks.
Forty-nine confirmed dead at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando. The shooter with potential ties to ISIS. Another mass shooting. Another hate crime against a marginalized group in our society. Another potential terrorist attack in America.
As I came home that evening after the high school graduate’s baccalaureate service, my heart sank deeper. At the magnitude of this tragedy, the ordinary tasks of an ordinary pastor felt utterly trite. I felt my heart cry out, “When will this end?,” “When will there be peace?,” “When will violence come to an end?”
“Kyrie Eleison!” – “Come, Lord Jesus!”
But then the spirit convicted me. God reminded me that the work of a local congregation was neither trite nor ordinary. For the church is the visible representation of God in the world. That our ordinary tasks of prayers, reading scripture, singing praises, preaching a sermon and administering the sacraments are neither trite nor ordinary. For God, through the power of Jesus Christ, has called the church to do the extraordinary through the ordinary. For through prayer, scripture, song, proclamation of the gospel and communion we are nourished and sent. We are sent to be the church in the world not just on Sunday morning. We are sent to be Christ to our neighbor. We are sent to speak against evil and hate in all their forms. We are sent not to repay evil for evil or hate for hate. We are sent to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. We are sent to act as the hands and feet of Christ himself!
We, the church of Jesus Christ, are called to do the ordinary: pray, read scripture and gather in worship, but also to act upon our faith. Prayer and action…in the face of evil neither will be effective without the other.
I am not instructing what to pray or how to act, for that is up to you and how the spirit convicts your heart. But the church must do both or we fail to become the church God is calling us to be. May we cry out, “Kyrie Eleison!” – “Come, Lord Jesus!” and then go, be the Church!
Hope Lutheran Church