Last Sunday I was rejoicing with the siblings in Christ at Atonement Lutheran Church at Sebring, Florida, on the ordination and installation of their pastor, Rev. David Thoresen.
Only three days later at a nearby bank, a young man walked in, shooting and killing at least 5 people. In a news article I read, the young man’s father said that he was raised as a good kid. No further information is available on the young man’s motivation or intentions, but as people of God, we can cry out in pain for both whatever led to his actions and the impact of those actions. This is a tragedy all around–and like so many tragedies, it makes no sense.
When brokenness and pain results in loss of life, it is a tragedy, and the response and ‘solution’ is complicated. There may be laws and policies that need to be reformed or enforced. There may be resources that need to be made more available to those who need it. There may be communities that need to strengthen their care for one another, and especially for those on the margins. As the Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my heart is broken, and I am praying for all the victims of this terrible massacre. The faithful response to these events is multi-layered and complex…and it will involve all of us. I encourage anyone who can to contact their political officers–regardless of affiliation–to advocate for law reforms that may bring relief to tragedies like this one. I encourage individuals and congregations to continue seeking ways to be involved in your community in ways that promote healthy relationships, healthy systems and vital resources for all. We all want safety and peace, and it will take each of us and all of us to achieve that safety and peace.
In the meantime, I am grateful for the pastoral presence and leadership of Rev. David Thoreson, who will be leading a prayer vigil for the victims and for peace next Wednesday evening (Jan. 30) at Atonement Lutheran Church, Sebring. As the body of Christ, may we continue to gather in prayer and remembrance for the victims of this tragedy, but also for the victims of numerous tragedies like this in our country and around the world. When we have no words, and when we don’t even feel like praying, we lean on one another and on the presence of the Holy Spirit, who hears our groans and cries too deep for words.
Lord, in the middle of things which we do not understand, let us continue to work for peace and justice, guided by your Spirit and trusting in your mercy. Bring peace and comfort to those affected by this shooting, and give wisdom to our lawmakers to do what is correct for the sake of the people. We pray this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen
Rev. Pedro M. Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA
The ELCA provides a variety of resources related to conversation, reflection and advocacy. To view these resources, click here. Specifically, you might review these documents:
- Social Statement on Church in Society
- Social Message on Mental Illness
- Social Message on Community Violence
- Social Resolution on Gun Violence Prevention
Additional resources for responding and coping after a community crisis are available from Lutheran Counseling Services.
Thanks for your message…I am a member of Atonement Lutheran in Sebring.. So sorry to have this tragedy so soon after a great celebration for Pastor Dave.