FOUR DEAD IN SHOOTING
The gruesome headline blared its news, disrupting our Sunday morning quiet before we left our homes for church. Twenty-four hours earlier a young man killed three people, then while escaping and aiming at police officers, he too was killed. All this within three blocks of the place where we would gather for fellowship, instruction and worship. As we drove to church yesterday, a few people still gathered at the site where blood had flowed. One media source had its cameras ready for yet more interviews.
What do ministry leaders say to a church gathering with heavy hearts? A family of God fully committed to being a light in our city, a church that just a few weeks earlier had fanned out throughout this very area to rake leaves, paint walls, encourage children–as servants to the city? Those involved in preparing for yesterday’s worship had the “program” in place. Long before Sunday morning services our staff seeks guidance from the Holy Spirit so that all elements of each worship time are centered around the scripture theme. Whether it be music from the choir during the traditional services or from the band during contemporary worship, all is chosen to call us in one direction toward God. Yesterday children’s choirs would be participating, adding their own ingredient of praise.
We attend the contemporary service and the first song had these words: Jesus, in Your Name we pray, Come and fill our hearts today. Lord, give us strength to live for You and glorify Your Name. In departure from how the service regularly begins, one of our pastors asked us to bow first in silent prayer, then in corporate prayer for our city, our police officers, the friends and family of those killed. Then, as planned (weeks before), the children’s choir began singing, It Is Well. Hm-m-m…
The morning’s sermon title was “Setting Things Right” with scripture references from Isaiah 42 and Matthew 12:
Here is my Servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
With a holy sense of God’s presence and leading, our preacher, who had prepared this sermon (weeks before) challenged us—“broken people living in a broken world”—to be participators in God’s acts of justice in our community and world. Because the word justice comes from the Hebrew root “to set things right,” it’s as if God were saying, “I’m setting the world right. Join me.”
After this sacrament of the Word, the family of God was invited to the communion table to remember the price paid by Jesus to procure justice that will only fully come when He returns.
It was a solemn morning and throughout the time spent together with my brothers and sisters of this grieving city, I kept thinking, “How did they (church leaders) know that this theme, this music, this scripture, this prayer would be especially suited to this morning?” Yesterday afternoon as I contemplated this question among others, I was reminded of these words:
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent (Isaiah 28:29).
As I plan my day, my week, even the next few years, I can’t know what headline news will break in, but I can be sure—and I can confidently rest in—the One whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.