Posted tagged ‘violence’

The Christ Child In The Shadow of Sutherland Springs, Texas

December 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               December 17, 2017

             

On November 5 of this year a shooter stormed into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire. Twenty-six people were killed that day. Twenty-three inside the building, two outside, and one who died on the way to the hospital.

Ten years ago this month 24 year old Matthew Murray shot and killed Stephanie and Rachel Works, and wounded their father and two other people outside New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The night before he had shot and killed two staff members at a Youth With A Mission center in Arvada, Colorado.

Two years ago Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people who were attending a mid-week prayer service at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Violence in the midst of American churches is becoming a bit too frequent for us. The fact is that violence in churches in other places around the world is much more frequent. Religious persecution in those faraway places that we only know about from page 15 of the news section of the Sunday paper is a way of life.

Let’s be honest! There are a limited number of “safe places” today. Schools now have security procedures, but shootings still happen there. Malls and work places, parks and restaurants…they all appear in the list of places where people have died in mass shootings.

And then we read the story of the Christ child, and see the violence in the miraculous event: Herod has his henchmen slash the life out of infant boys. It seems strange that the miraculous story of God could be stained with the violence of man. It gives us a sense of the uncomfortable truth of our day; that the ways of God will always meet the resistance of the world and its ways.

Joe and Claryce Holcombe lost eight family members in the Sutherland Springs church shooting. They are still approaching the season of Advent with hope and joy filtered through the experience of sorrow. Married for sixty years they look forward to the day of reuniting with departed family in heaven. It gives them tempered peace even as they will be looking at the empty places at the dinner table this Christmas.

Bad things happen in this world, but not just to followers of Jesus. Bad things happen to everyone. The difference that gives us peace is that Jesus followers are also accompanied by the Christ who comes alongside them in the journey. In the hostility of the world he is our safe place, a shelter in the midst of the storm.

Hints of Being a Mennonite American Baptist Pastor

August 3, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 August 3, 2015

                            

     One of my seminary professors was Dr. David Augsburger, a great teacher and a Mennonite in the midst of our American Baptist seminary. That was 36 years ago and was my first brush with Mennonites. Dr. Augsburger dressed like us and was rumored to even drink wine, a reality that I was beginning to see was normal. In my growing up years I had only encountered wine on neon signs that said either “Wine and Liquor Store” or “Fine Dining and Wine.” My family didn’t go out to restaurants much, but when we did it was Big Boy and, without a doubt, there was no fine wine in the premises.

Over the years I’ve come to know a number of other people who are Mennonites and the men put their pants on the same way I do. I’ve even preached in the Mennonite church here in town three times when we do our pulpit exchange Sunday.

In recent times I’ve noticed hints of Mennonite beliefs in my belief system. The main one that seems to be getting stronger is pacifism. I’m not so pacifistic that I want our military downsized, but this week has made me think a lot about violence. In the newspaper today there were articles on a policeman killed in Memphis, a physician in Pennsylvania accused of killing another lion in Africa, a man charged with the beheading of his wife and pet dogs, an update on the Minnesota dentist who had killed a lion and the people who want him killed. There was also an article and action shot of two professional baseball teams in a brawl, and a listing of the various policies that the Ferguson, Missouri violence has caused.

In other words, how thin would my newspaper be if the articles on violence weren’t there?

I’m not putting a peace sign on my Civic, but it seems that the human condition and tendency is to push the violent key pretty quickly. Here in Colorado Springs a fourteen year old boy was gunned down by the 31 year old uncle whose nephew had accused the fourteen year old of taking his cell phone. Gunned down!

In Denver the James Holmes trial is winding down, the young man who killed twelve and wounded seventy at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Yesterday bombs exploded within thirty minutes of one another outside two separate Las Cruces, New Mexico churches. Las Cruces!

About six weeks ago nine people were killed in a Charleston, South Carolina church in the midst of a prayer service.

There just seems to be an unhealthy trend going on here! So I’m leaning towards the Mennonites. American Baptists have a strong history of non-violence also, but we’re not quite as committed across the denomination like our Mennonite friends.

Bottom line! There needs to be an immediate increase in the production of “chill pills.”

Peace out!

Does It Snow in Heaven…and Other Questions

April 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   April 27, 2015

                             

I’m sitting in my usual Monday morning Starbuck’s seat looking out at Pike’s Peak…except I can’t see Pike’s Peak this morning because it is an overcast day, and there are flakes of snow coming down. Let me write that again. There are snow flakes coming down!!! It’s April 27! I’m going to petition God that there should be no snowfall after April 15!

We’ve had so much snow this winter that I’m starting to wonder if the Lord finds pleasure in it. I know snowboarders do! I’ve got a guy at church who actually gets all giddy at the possibility of a blizzard because he loves getting the snowblower out.

It makes me wonder if it snows in heaven? I can’t use “at the higher altitudes” as a reason for whether it does or not.

It’s one of a number of questions that I never ask anyone around me out of fear of the looks I’ll receive. A lot of my questions actually dance through my mind in this Starbuck’s seat around the end of my first cup of dark roast. By then I am neatly dangerous!

Imagine a safety umbrella above my head as I ask the following brain drains.

-Why doesn’t Old Navy make men’s jeans in size 35? I’m dealing with waist discrimination! If I spend a month at the Golden Corral buffet bar I could easily solve it. Conspiracy theory! Old Navy and Golden Corral plotting together…especially targeting me!

    -Is there something I’m missing? Are sagging pants sexy? I just don’t get it! Of course, if I wear size 36 without a belt I could be sagging as well. Are sagging pants on a sixty year old man sexy or a sign of dementia? Just asking…while I still remember!

    -Why is my vertical leap now about two inches?

    -Why does high fiber cereal always have to look like rabbit droppings and taste like grass clippings? Is it to convince us that we are eating something that is healthy for us?

    -Why do I still listen to the flight attendant give the pre-flight instructions? I’ve heard it a hundred times. Is it my Southern Baptist growing up years rising to the surface and shoveling guilt into my thoughts…or is it in case I’ve missed something during the previous times I’ve heard it?

    -What are all the recent stories about various police officers shooting citizens, and other citizens rioting in protest telling us about our culture? This is not a slam on law enforcement, but rather a question that pertains to the rise of violence in our society. Video games…professional athletes beating up people…school shootings…crowded prisons…Two A.M. bar fights…will we ever be able to honestly admit that we have a problem…and will we ever, ever, ever be able to say that it is related to a diminished regard for life itself?

    -Why does hair grow in my ears like weeds gone crazy?

    -Why does the dog in the yard behind our house bark at all hours, and why can I hear it as clearly as a car alarm going off but his owners not seem to be able to?

    -Why does a middle school boys’ locker room rival an overflowing rollaway dumpster in odor? 

    -Why are so many Christians as excited about their faith as I am about eating whole hominy?

I have other questions that take journeys through my mind every day. Questions that, for the most part, have no answers, but rather remain as puzzles in my head like a boatload of Rubik’s Cubes.

I’ll stop here! I’ve got to get a refill!