There are no words…
Even though I have read countless words, and heard countless more since last Sunday morning, …there are no words that can be said about the unthinkable evil that took place at an Orlando nightclub a week ago.
There are no words, yet on the Sunday that follows the worst mass shooting in the history of our country people like me, pastor’s like me are expected to have some words, and say something about this horrendous atrocity.
We are expected to have words because some people are going to places like this, to hear from people like me, pastor’s like me, because they are deeply troubled and heartbroken as a result of this senselessness, and need a shred of hope.
Some are going to places like this, to hear from people like me, pastor’s like me, because they want to see and hear what we will say—if it might just go in opposition to their beliefs—and thus seize the moment to pounce and judge and debate and fight.
Some are going to places like this, to hear from people like me, but pastor’s unlike me, because they already know what that preacher is going to say and they want to revel in a message that says, “God’s judgement was upon the sin of Orlando.”
And I would attest that more than some, many more are going to places like this, to hear from people like me because they are scared, afraid, and filled with fear.
Some are scared and afraid and filled with fear because they believe this heinous act will give rise to more heinous acts.
Some are scared and afraid and filled with fear because they fear this will generate a softer stance, and increased tolerance towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community—the LGBT community.
Some are scared and afraid and filled with fear because they are once again targets of hate and judgement—but not targeted with words and despicable speech, but rather targeted with bullets.
But I hope and pray there are others who are gathering in places like this, wanting to hear from people like me, pastor’s like me, who come because they are ready to be empowered to stand-up and say enough is enough; who come ready to be empowered to say the acts of one do not reflect the hearts of millions; who come ready to be empowered to say that no matter our differences, no matter our conflicts, no matter our beliefs— hate of any kind, but most especially manifest in mass murder and assignation, is not an answer and it never will be.
I hope and pray all of these things, because no matter your views, opinions, beliefs, or political stance toward the LGBT community, what happened at Pulse Nightclub last Sunday morning was an act of pure evil, enacted upon people who, by our faith we believe were and are, created in the image of God. And no matter our differences—whatever they may be—hate and judgement and condemnation and murder is never faithful, hate is never of God, hate is never Christ like. Never.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians tells us that because of Christ Jesus, there are no longer Jew or Greek. No longer slave or free. No longer male or female. For all of you are in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. These words by Paul are intended to teach us and remind us that that which is different in us is over shadowed by what we share in common—that because of Christ Jesus, because of his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, we are all one in the body of Christ.
Disciples of Christ pastor, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, senior pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, wrote an OpEd that appeared on NBCNews.com entitled, “We Cannot Let Hate Have the First, Last, or Loudest Word.” In this piece, Dr. Barber reminds us that the slaughtered and murdered victims were members of the LGBT community but, “…in a larger sense, in a better sense, we must say from our hearts, they were from our community. They remain members of our human family of love; in death, as they were in life, children of God, and we weep as one family.”
Dr. Barber, in accordance with the belief and teachings of the Apostle Paul is right. Each one of those forty nine murdered victims, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, political affiliation was a member of our one family and they deserve our attention, they deserve our grief and lament, they deserve our cries that say, like the Psalmist, “How long O God? How long?” But beyond our consideration of what they deserve, we would be faithful to be mindful of what they don’t deserve, and what they don’t deserve is being murdered. What these forty nine victims do not deserve is to have been judged and sentenced by someone other than their God. What these forty nine victims do not deserve is for us to ignore them on days like today. What these forty nine victims do not deserve is for us to not empathize and not go to a deeper understanding that members of the LGBT community never feel safe—even in, and maybe especially in the church. What these forty nine victims do not deserve is for their deaths to become fuel for more judgmental hate to be spewed forth toward Muslims.
Rev. Dr. Barber says further in his piece, “But while we cry, we must also gain our composure and not allow hate or cynicism to have the first, the loudest, or the last word. We cannot use hate as the path through our pain into our tomorrow. Hate fuels hate—Racial hate, homophobic hate, religious hate, class hate, and the rhetoric of hate that drives the terrorist and the mob. The culture of hate creates the actions of hate. It is and always has been a recipe for murder.”
Then, after citing instance after instance of hate inspired murder, Barber further says, “Hate wants us to respond and react with hate. Hate seeks an unending circle of hate. But we cannot fall into hate’s trap. Not in our hearts. Not in our actions. Not in our politics. The people always lose in the politics of hate.”
Again Barber is right. The way of hate means everyone loses—whether it be the perpetrators of hate or the victims of hate—we all lose. Which is why as people of faith we must live forth another way. A way that is fueled by love, inspired by love—and not just love of those who are close to us, those who look like us, sound like us, think like us, act like us, but love for all of us—love as God loves us.
We must enact, embody, and employ the word of John who says to us, “Let us love one another because love is from God.” Hate is not from God. Murder is not from God. Promoting fear is not from God. Passing our own judgement is not from God. But love is from God and whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God’s love is as Tony award recipient Lin Manuel Miranda said as he accepted his award for his work in the Broadway hit “Hamilton”
“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers,
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.”
We are called to love as God loves for when we do then hate will never ever, even in the midst of mass murder and assignation, have the last word.
I said there are no words that can begin to make sense of this unthinkable act of hate and murder. And that is true. And while I do believe that there are no words that can make sense of this…there are actually words that can be spoken that I do believe can and should have an impact on our lives—not to make sense of this horrendous atrocity, but to give a crystalizing perspective that this act of evil is just that—an act of pure, unadulterated evil. And those words are the names of the forty nine victims.
- Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
- Stanley Almodovar III, 23
- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
- Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
- Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
- Luis S. Vielma, 22
- Kimberly Morris, 37
- Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
- Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
- Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
- Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
- Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
- Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
- Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
- Amanda Alvear, 25
- Martin Benitez Torres, 33
- Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
- Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
- Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
- Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
- Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
- Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
- Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
- Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
- Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
- Luis Daniel Conde, 39
- Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
- Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
- Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
- Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
- Cory James Connell, 21
- Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
- Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
- Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
- Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
- Brenda Lee Marquez McColl, 49
- Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
- Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
- Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
- Frank Hernandez, 27
- Paul Terrell Henry, 41
- Antonio Davon Brown, 29
- Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
- Akyra Monet Murray, 18
- Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Perhaps there are some who do not like what I’ve said and done here. Perhaps there are some who now want to pounce, debate, and fight me because they’ve construed that I’m preaching a “gay agenda.” If that is your take then I invite you and implore you—do not take those feelings and thoughts out into the parking lot and find someone else who feels the same way and then vilify me. Do not sit silently in your anger or disappointment. Instead talk to me. I want to talk with you. I want to hear you, listen to you and your concerns, thoughts, opinions, anger and questions. I will be in my office tomorrow morning for the day and back by 6:30 tomorrow evening.
I want to talk with you because this message has nothing to do with a gay agenda and it has everything to do with a Godly agenda and with living as those who have been loved by the divine and are called to love as we have been loved, because no matter what God is love, and God’s love “is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love.” And it cannot be killed or swept aside.” But it can be, and it must be, lived and shared, with all. With all.
The hate has to stop. It has to. And the only thing strong enough to make it stop is the love of God. Amen.
God of love, once again we are reminded that we live in a broken world that needs your grace and mercy, a broken world that desperately needs your love and healing.
We are left with so many questions that will likely never be answered, but one we must ask and answer is, “How do we as disciples of Jesus Christ respond to this senseless act of violence and hatred?”
Surely one way is to pray—to step before you with humble and contrite hearts, aware that all have been wonderfully made in your image, and then ask for your comforting presence to be with the families who are grieving the death of loved ones; asking for healing for those who were injured by this gunman; and seek solidarity for those living in the shattered Orlando community.
And while our prayers are important, help us realize there is more we can do. As disciples of Jesus Christ we can boldly proclaim your unconditional love for all people. We can announce with our words and deeds that You desire for all to be reconciled to You and one another. We can show that it is your desire that we live in peace, not in fear; that we live in love and not hate. And then, we can seek to discover grace-filled ways to share Christ with others, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered; ways that will convey that we are all your holy and beloved children who do not deserve to be targets of hate.
But this will take courage and boldness. It will take an open mind and an open heart. It will take a willingness to reach for deeper understanding and awareness. It will take compassion, kindness, civility, and non-judgement—all of which are hard in this world…but isn’t that exactly what Jesus not only showed the world, but called his followers to live as well? To the entire world, he showed compassion, kindness, civility, and non-judgement—no matter the person. And no doubt he showed his love for all when he died for all.
So we pray, O God, that through your grace and mercy and love, you will continue to mold us into the Disciples of Christ this world needs—disciples who will share your love, like Jesus, so that this broken world can find the healing it so desperately needs.
We ask for you to now hear the prayers of our hearts, shared in this time of Holy Silence.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior, who taught us to pray saying, “Our…”