Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian Church,
It is likely that you are troubled and saddened by the news of the tragedy at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. We are all aware that evil is active in the world, we see it every day in the news. But the senseless violence that took place in a church on a Sunday morning to Christians just like us can hit hard and close to home. Whether it is a racially motivated church shooting like the one in Charleston, South Carolina or a church shooting like this one that seems to stem from domestic violence, the horrible and tragic loss of life is breath taking. How do we go on in such a world? In this country?
God makes a lot of promises in the Bible. And God does not promise us a walk in a rose garden with no problems. The Bible recognizes over and over again that this world is a place full of sin and it is going to challenge us, sometimes to the point of feeling overwhelming. However, God does promise to be present and care, and God’s kingdom does win in the end even though on this side of eternity we don’t know exactly what that will look like. In Isaiah 40 the prophet reminds us of this: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” The Psalmist records that God does not remove trouble from our world, but that God is present and will help in the midst of the unthinkable. Psalm 46 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” And then in John 16:33 Jesus recalls all of God’s promises and then says to his disciples “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Just because we know God is more powerful than any evil we face in this world, that does not take away the toll of living in the midst of evil. We are human beings with very real reactions. This kind of event can foster feelings of sorrow, fear, depression, and hopelessness. Your pastors are aware of this and can feel the same way. It is important to care for each other at times like these. Talk to one another and as Pastor Mike just preached this last Sunday, encourage one another. If you notice a friend or fellow church member withdrawing or feeling especially sad, reach out to them. Also tell others to care for them, including pastors, elders, and deacons.
This is why church community is so important. We are not designed to face the evil of this world alone. God desires us to be a body of Christ. This is why Jesus instituted the church. We should not try to face these things as individuals, but rather as a united Church. Your pastors hope that you will use this time of tragedy as an opportunity to care for each other. Please reach out to one another and also call on us. This Sunday we will have a special time of prayer during our potluck lunch at 12:30. We will all have the chance to participate, pray, and writes notes of encouragement to the church in Sutherland Springs in the face of evil and injustice. We will look to the God of love for encouragement and direction.
Pastor Mike and Pastor Chris.