Like many of you, I have been horrified and frightened at the scenes coming out of Las Vegas this week. I’ve struggled to find the words to say to you, to my children and to my neighbors. The senseless act of violence that terrorized Las Vegas and continues to terrorize us is a brutal reminder of the illness of violence afflicting too many places in the American landscape. With all of you, I mourn with those who have lost family members, friends and colleagues. I pray for healing for the injured both physically and mentally. I give thanks to God for the first responders: the medics, the police, the security guards and the all those that risked their own lives to help save lives on Sunday night. Disasters like this often show us our true humanity and draw the better angels of our nature to the surface and that was no less true in Las Vegas.
I want you to know that If you need to talk about what you are seeing and hearing in the news, I am available and only a phone call away. If you need a quiet place to pray, please stop by the church and ask Ron to buzz you in. This is a time for contemplation, repentance and much prayer but it’s also a time to exercise self care. Take time to go for a walk. Turn off your tv or your radio when it gets to be too much. Connect with your loved ones and don’t underestimate the healing power of hugs. We are all in this together.
On Sunday we will be observing 59 seconds of silence, to honor the slain – but I personally feel like that is not enough. I will also be contacting my congressmen and women to ask for common sense gun control laws – including universal background checks, a national gun registry and ban on high capacity magazines and bump stocks. I hope you will join me in taking action to match our prayers.
Now, you may vehemently disagree with me on these measures AND THAT’S OK. We can disagree and even argue. We owe it to those murdered in this attack – and in so many other similar shootings – to at least have this debate. If we can’t come together, and work together, all of our prayers are empty words. God doesn’t want our burnt offerings and lavish words – God wants us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. I hope you will join me in praying for the victims of this shooting and I hope this begins some kind of dialogue in this country and even in this church about the role of guns in America.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful prayer written by Dr. Laurie Kraus, the Director of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Program specifically for this day.
God bless you all,
God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
As the sound of gunfire again echoes over another American city,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
As death rained down from above in the dark of night,
We pray this day for the Sun of Righteousness to arise with healing in its wings,
and rain mercy, grace and peace upon our broken people.
So many have been lost: brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends
gathered in the unity of music, scattered by evil and hatred.
We pray for solace for all who loved them.
We pray for those who have been spared and those whose lives are changed forever
that they may find healing, sustenance, and strength in the hard days to come.
We give thanks for first responders:
who ran toward gunfire, rather than away
who dropped everything to save the wounded and comfort survivors
We pray for doctors and nurses and mental health providers
who repair what has been broken
who to try to bring healing and hope
in the face of the unchecked principalities and powers of violence .
We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering and traumatized.
We cry, how long, O Lord?
But the same words echo back, again and again
as if the question comes to us from You— how long, how long, how long…
In the wake of an event that should be impossible to contemplate
but which has become all too common in our experience,
open our eyes, break our hearts,
and turn our hands to the movements of your Spirit,
that our anger and sorrow may unite in service to build a reign of peace,
where the lion and the lamb may dwell together,
and terror no longer holds sway over our common life.
In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus
Director, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance