Message From the Rt. Rev. George Sumner:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in Christ, Prince of Peace.
We pray for the repose of the souls of all victims of the shocking violence in Uvalde, and our hearts go out to their families and the whole community. Include them all in your prayers privately and as we gather Sunday. I am forwarding Father Hatfield’s reflection, which speaks for us all. May this madness and evil be stopped by God’s protecting hand.
Letter From the Rev. Joel Hatfield to his Congregation:
As I write to you, the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, is unfolding before us. The most recent casualty reports indicate that 19 my
children and 2 adults have been killed. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the full extent of what took place. What we do know is that there is tragic loss, shock, pain, and grief for those affected and the people of Uvalde.
There is great evil in the world and the innocent always bear the consequences of the acts of others. In moments like these, our initial shock and grief can turn to anger. And we can question, “where was God?”
When David was on the verge of despair, with darkness closing in and feeling as though God had abandoned him, he wrote Psalm 13. Yet, amid his turmoil, he puts his trust in God—because of God’s unfailing love.
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me. (NLT)
As believers in a risen Lord and Savior, our first response should always be, through prayer, to bring our pain, grief, and brokenness to the Living God. Right now, words may fail us, and we may not even know what to pray. Like all the saints who came before us, who lived through times of tragedy and death: we rejoice with those who rejoice, and we weep with those who weep. With one hand, we lift them up and with the other, we point to the cross of Christ—the ultimate symbol of love and the place at which death was swallowed up by victory.
St. Paul teaches us that, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8:26, NLT)” Aloud or in our hearts, let us pray for those who were killed, pray for their families. Pray for those who were witnesses and the first responders who came to support and save. Pray for those who bear the responsibility of government and law enforcement.
I offer these prayers to help focus our thoughts and provide us with a starting point for our own prayers.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust these little ones who have died so tragically to your never-failing care and love and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of your servants, grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with families, friends, and the people of Uvalde in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
One final thought: St. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Remember that as Christians, all of us are the light of Christ in and to this world—we are not islands.
Singer and songwriter Kathy Trocolli has these words of challenge for us as Christians in moments like these. How we need to be the light. “Carry your candle, run to the darkness. Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn. Hold out your candle for all to see it. Take your candle, and go light your world.”
Take up your candle, run to the darkness, and light your world.
May God bless you and keep you.