The gun violence that has devastated families around our nation is heartbreaking. The recent shooting in Kalamazoo has shocked us with its senselessness and proximity. One of the victims was a devoted United Methodist who served the church, served the poor, who loved in Christ’s name, who asked little for herself and gave much. Why her? Why any of these people? A man, proud of his son and giving his pride and joy a car for his graduation? Madness. Premeditated murder. Evil. That someone could be collecting an arsenal with no other purpose than causing this kind of mayhem and devastation can have no quarter of defense in any civilized person.
But the problem lies deeper. I have no sympathy for whatever stresses this killer was going through. There can be no justification for his actions, no understanding for what he has done. But we can look deeper into the problem of the human being itself. Jacques Ellul in his book “Presence of the Kingdom” wrote between two world wars that there was a gravitational pull toward self-destruction that operated in the world. That its force could not be resisted without the counter weight of love that was the force and pull of the Holy Spirit. When we turn away from the light of that love, we succumb to the forces of that dark pull us toward death.
That is why I am in the church. That is why I believe what we do to shine the light of God’s love in the world is so important. Because surrender to the darkness leads to murderous evil, on individual scale and on the world stage. But acceptance of the love of God in Jesus Christ and the power for life that is God’s Holy Spirit is the hope of the world. Life without it is literally, madness.
We are not helpless before these kinds of heartless acts. The people of God have power to respond, to pray, to lift, to come alongside, to answer hate with love. Contributions are streaming in in honor of the victims. From their deaths will spring life that killers can never stop. That is the answer we must give as God’s people, for it is the answer God gives us in Jesus; death is not the end, loves story is unstoppable as long as there are people who are held in the orbit of love’s powerful pull. That is where the kingdom is present. Where else should we be?
Rev. Linda Farmer-Lewis, Pastor Central United Methodist Church Feb 26, 2016