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Last Sunday, in between services, we held a brief prayer and remembrance service for the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families and loved ones.
I began by reading Psalm 121 (“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”) and Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5. Then I spoke extemporaneously about our reaction to Orlando, and events like them, and how we can understand them in light of the gospel.
I said that when something like the mass shooting in Orlando happens, we often ask why God allows this kind of evil. In Jesus’ day, people asked the same question. In fact, in Luke 13, Jesus himself refers to two tragic events that were in the “news” of his day: a mass killing of Galilean Jews by Pontius Pilate and a freakish accident that killed 18 in one fell swoop. People asked Jesus, “Why did this happen?”—assuming, as people often did back then (see John 9:2-3), that these events were acts of God’s judgment.
Jesus rejects that interpretation in both cases. If God were judging them for their sins, why would God not also be judging the people in his audience? They, too, were sinners who deserve God’s judgment and wrath. Therefore, their response—and our response today—to these kinds of tragedies should be to remind ourselves that our own lives are no less fragile than the victims, and that we all need to repent while we have the opportunity.
Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us: out of this love, he made a way for sinners like us to find forgiveness, eternal life, and future resurrection.
Echoing words from last Sunday’s sermon, I said, “When Christ comes in final victory, all evil will be judged and avenged; the scales of justice will be balanced; swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And he will wipe away every tear and death will be no more. We look forward to that day.”
We handed out and released 49 white balloons, each representing a victim of the massacre.