Weeping With Orlando

The following is taken from my sermon notes from this morning:

Before I get to my message this morning, I want to speak to a tragedy that will dominate the news this week. In case you haven’t heard, early this morning, a gunman opened fire in a night club in Orlando, Florida. The latest news reports say there are 50 people dead, and at least that many others wounded. The mayor of Orlando has asked the governor of Florida to declare a state of emergency. Local people in Florida are being asked to donate blood. In a nation that is no stranger to mass shootings, today’s goes on record as the worst mass shooting so far.

I read that news before I even got out of bed this morning. My reaction was a mixture of things. I was shocked, but I quickly moved on to be pre-annoyed at the reaction that I knew was coming. If the shooter turns out to be a conservative “Christian” then the left will go crazy. If the shooter turns out to be Muslim, the right will go crazy. People on both sides of the gun control issue will capitalize on the tragedy. The presidential political candidates will issue statements. This is all we’re going to see on the news for weeks. And by the way, it was a LGBT nightclub, which will bring in a whole other angle of the social war to this situation.

I started driving to church, with all that swirling in my mind. And then I heard the voice of a distraught mother being interviewed on the radio. It had been six hours since the shooting, and she still hadn’t heard from her son. You could hear her anguish.

It took me back to December 2012, when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook elementary school and took the lives of 20 children and six staff members. My daughters were the same age as the victims in Sandy Hook. I grieved hard that weekend. If you were here that Sunday morning in 2012, you may recall that I could barely keep it together. I grieved so hard that I could barely speak, because I could see my own children in those children. I could identify with those parents in their loss. And I wept with them.

This morning we Christians were on our way to church as we heard that 50 people died in an LBGT night club last night. There will be many opinions and many reactions… policy, ideology, morality. The social war will rage this week.

For a moment I felt morally superior as I considered that we should grieve for these victims because they are somebody’s children. And then I was reminded of a statement I read this week from Jefferson Bethke in his book “It’s Not What You Think.” He was writing about the female victims of sexual violence and how we sometimes say, “How could somebody do such a thing? She’s somebody’s sister, or somebody’s daughter.”

He notes that when we say that, we mean well. We’re trying to humanize a victim. But unintentionally we are actually devaluing her. Please listen carefully to these words: “We don’t realize that we are subtly tying one human’s value to another human’s value to have weighted value. A person isn’t valuable because she is someone’s daughter or sister; she is valuable and has dignity and worth because she bears the image of God. She is a human.

If every one of the victims from the Orlando shooting had been single, only-child orphans with no children of their own, they would still be human beings, created in the image of God and therefore worthy of our grief.

Heaven forbid that a mass shooting should happen in a Christian church this morning. But if it were to happen, and the news were about 50 Christians who died in church, would you expect LGBT people to say, “Well we really don’t agree with their lifestyle choice to be Christians and to have been in church this morning, but… it’s still sad that they’re dead, because they were somebody’s family member”?

Let us do as the Bible tells us in Romans 12:14-15: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”