A Pastoral Response to the Sparks Middle School Shooting
I write this with a tear-soaked keyboard. I cannot pretend to have the perfect response to what is happening in Sparks, Nevada. At Living Stones, we are a church of churches that meet all over the state. Sparks Middle school is in our backyard. People in our community are certainly affected by this tragedy.
I do not have what it takes to weave together an adequate response. There is no glossary in the back of the Bible that says, “What to say when innocent teachers and students are viciously murdered on a cool autumn Monday morning. ”
This day is dark.
We are filled with fear, great sadness, and questions.
Pithy cliches like “Let go and let God” are patronizing on days like today.
Millions are angry, confused, and shaking their fist, asking God where he was and what he’s going to do about it. Many people in the Bible did just that, too. In fact, today many of us are crying out with the Psalmist “How long, oh Lord?” and with John the Revelator, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” There are families today who are metaphorically clothed in sackcloth and ashes.
Christians, like all of mankind, are no strangers to suffering. In fact, our Bible is filled with it. The pinnacle of our entire story involves the One we worship - Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant. In fact, we even have a book in the Bible entitled “Lamentations” because our faith is one in which we can take real complaints and drop them all on God’s doorstep. In the New Testament, Peter tells us “Cast all of your cares on him because he cares for you.”
As Christians, we don’t recite mantras to stones which cannot hear us nor lift a finger to help. As Christians, we know that self-medication really doesn’t solve our sobbing hearts. In Christianity, we don’t have cookie-cutter answers that make sense out of pure evil. In fact, that’s part of the problem. Evil makes no sense. As Christians, we don’t have all the answers.
Some would argue, “God doesn’t even know how this feels to be trapped in a world that is overrun in evil.”
However, God Almighty, the Abba Father of Jesus, knows what it is like to see his only Son horrifically murdered at the hands of evil men.
In getting down to the very grit of humanity, German Theologian Jürgen Moltmann demonstrated how important the Incarnation really is. He said this:
“What kind of a poor being is a God who cannot suffer and cannot even die? A God who cannot suffer is poorer than any human. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do not affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either. So he is also a loveless being.”
2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born as the light into this dark world. At his birth, innocent children were murdered by Herod. Today, as billions celebrate his first advent, more innocent people were murdered because, even though times and technologies and cultures change, human hearts do not unless the One who was born in the manger causes us to be born into his Kingdom.
There is a day coming when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. That day is not today, so we weep with those who are weeping.
Editor's note: At the time of this publication, the details of the shooting are still being released. For more information, here is a link to the Reno Gazette-Journal's live updates.
If you live in Sparks and need pastoral support, please contact Pastor Kyle Bateson at firstname.lastname@example.org.