The Shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Well, here we go again! Our country has experienced another shooting. This one came by the hands of a self-identified racist. And this one happened during Wednesday Night Bible Study at historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The focus of last weekend’s worship service was on God coming in person to suffering Job and Jesus calming the storm at sea. But God doesn’t come to Job with words of comfort. He comes “in person”, yes — but He comes to ask, “Who are YOU to question my wisdom? Where were YOU when I created the heavens and the earth? Who are YOU to question the way I do things when you don’t know anything at all about how the universe works?” And God goes on like this through four chapters. At the end, all Job can say in reply is “You ask how I dare question Your wisdom when I am so very ignorant. I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know… I am ashamed of all I said and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 38:1-42:6)

When the terrified disciples wake Jesus up because He is sleeping through the storm that they are afraid is going to drown them, they ask, “Lord, don’t you care that we are about to die?” First, Jesus calms the storm, and then He asks them, “Why were you frightened? Do you STILL have no faith?” And understandably, this made them even MORE afraid as they began asking each other, “Who IS this that even the wind and the waves do what He commands?” (Mark 4:35-41)

At the time I wrote and published my blog, I had no idea that Dylan Roof was about to shoot and kill 9 people on Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 — at a Bible study, no less. I know that God can do anything He wants, but like Job and the disciples, I want to know why He doesn’t stop this stuff? Why does He allow all these shootings and acts of racist savagery? So many of us have been working and praying and hoping (and voting)for racial reconciliation in this country. And still things like this happen. And in the aftermath, the usual people are calling for the usual solutions.

I found the following blog by Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, the President of the Missouri-Synod Lutheran Church to be very helpful. Perhaps you will too. He writes: “ Another brutal and senseless killing spree by a crazed gunman, motivated by racial hatred, sends our thoughts swirling between despair and numbness. Why were these nine Christians martyred as they were taking in the life-giving Word of God in Christian Bible study? We know and are too often reminded that there is horrid evil in this world, and an “evil one” who bedevils the minds of such killers. Jesus said it would be so (John 17:15).

As the world devolves around us from insanity to insanity, I’m reminded of the statement of John Adams that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Second Amendment. As both religion and morality are on steep decline among us, we can only expect more of this insanity by individuals unhinged from the safety of families and a society normed by natural law and influenced by the genuine teaching of the Bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

No truth of the New Testament is so loudly stated by Jesus than that the Triune God is the creator of all people (Matt. 19:4); that God loves all (John 3:16); that all are equally indebted to God and valuable to Him (2 Cor. 5:14–15; John 8:12). Racism is a fundamental denial of the Word of God (cf. Acts 2:5ff.; Matt. 15:21ff.) and natural law. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Declaration of Independence). The denial of human rights, maltreatment of persons due to race, including the forbidding of the right for a man and a woman to marry without regard to race, is contrary to natural and divinely revealed law (Holy Scripture). It also contradicts the universality of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, who died for all (Romans 3:9–10, 19; 2 Cor. 5:19).

We mourn the loss of these dear Christians and pray for their loved ones. May they be consoled by “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” and the picture of heaven painted by St. John in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

We reject racism and racially motivated hatred in all its forms. We repent where we have fallen short, and we pray for strength to stand for what is good and right and true. We pray for the perpetrator and his family, even as we demand the swift execution of justice.

Lord, have mercy upon us. Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

In the midst of this storm that surrounds us, we do pray for all whose lives have been touched by this shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We ask that they may each be empowered and healed. We pray for the family and friends of Pastor Clementa Pinkney and all of those massacred at Bible Study. We also pray for the three who survived this terrible shooting and their family and friends as well. Even though it takes great will power, and in obedience to Your command that we pray for our enemies, we also pray for the perpetrator of this violence, Dylan Roof, and his family. Lord, may Thy will be done in each of these lives. Furthermore, we pray for all who hope and pray and work for racial reconciliation in this country. May they be preserved from despair, may they continue walking toward the light, and may they continue to trust in Your wisdom. All these things, and whatsoever else You see that we need, we ask trusting in Your mercy. Amen.

A short and moving biography of each of the 9 people who were murdered at Mother Enamuel AME Church can be found here. Just click “here”. Their names are Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Cynthia Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson.

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