My heart grieves this evening for those who have been killed and wounded at Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The bar was probably filled with persons who identify as LGBTQ – in town for a gay pride celebration – and persons who do not identify as LGBTQ, but who were at the bar to celebrate and spend time with the persons whom they call friends, neighbors. The persons who have been killed and injured in this great tragedy – in this act of terrorism and hate, no matter what you believe about human sexuality, are our neighbors too!
Someone once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus, in response to this question, told a story that many Christians know by heart. Following the story that Christians commonly call “The parable of the Good Samaritan,” Jesus asked the questioner to answer his own question. What was the answer? “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus responded, “Go, and do likewise.”
Genesis tells us that every person is created in God’s image. And since the scriptures tell us that God is love, each person who was present in the bar last night and early this morning is loved by God. Each person is loveable. No matter if you are progressive, conservative, or centrist in your stance on human sexuality, our hearts should grieve that someone thought it was their right, their place, to end life that was given by God.
In this world torn apart by terrorism, in this world which grieves the death of thousands because of hate and fear, in this world struggling with countless phobias, isms of every kind, and social injustices, – God needs – more importantly God’s people need – passionate spiritual leaders, both laity and clergy – to leave the comfort of our religious busyness and to connect with God’s power and the excellence of ministry and mission modeled by Christ. We, as the body of Christ, need to step out and bring this world, bring God’s children, out of misery, out of bondage, out of suffering, out of pain, out of situations where they are seen as nobodies, and recognize them as somebodies. Everyone person needs to be seen as a human being who is Important! Valuable! Beloved! Each person need to be appreciated, valued as a somebody! The scripture tells us this is how God sees every person whom God has created.
Oh God, heal those who have been wounded, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Oh God, comfort and heal those who were spared injury and death.
Give them strength and hope for better and more merciful tomorrows.
Loving Christ, be present with family and friends who are grieving.
Give them strength and keep them from the temptation of becoming bitter and hate filled.
Loving Christ, be with the community of Orlando, that they may be bound together to support their neighbors, our neighbors,
and strengthen their witness of mercy, grace, repentance, forgiveness, and love.
Oh, Holy Spirit, move among us. Inspire us to love. Move us to grace and mercy.
Help us to be compassionate. Stir us to acts of justice. Help us to be very present with all those who are hurting, grieved, and hopeless.
Almighty God, in the midst of this tragedy, help us to be your light. Amen.
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball