"And a little child shall lead them....They won't harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea." (Isaiah 11:6c & 9)
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Annual Conference,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who comes to us as Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world, for such a time as this.
We are haunted by the recent horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut. We can hardly fathom the depth of sorrows and pains of those who lost their loved ones in this indescribable tragedy. As people of faith, we wanted them to know that we were with them in their mourning. We prayed that God's loving arms would hold each of them tight, comfort them and grant them strength for the journey during and after burying their loved ones.
The Newsweek magazine soon after the massacre had these words: "Before long 28 people were dead-among them...20 schoolchildren, none of whom had yet celebrated their 11th birthday. In any sane society, events such as these would serve as a shock to the system. In America, it has become sickeningly routine....half of the dozen deadliest shootings in U.S. history have taken place in the past five years alone. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 2007, 32 dead. Binghamton, NY., 2009, 13 dead. Fort Hood, Texas, 2009, 13 dead. Aurora, Colo., 2012, 12 dead, Geneva County, Ala., 2009, 10 dead. And now Sandy Hook...where surviving children were told to 'hold hands and close your eyes' as they were led past the bodies of their playmates."
God is the Parent of all parents. Whenever one of our innocent and helpless people, particularly children, fall victim to violence, we know that our God weeps. God claims the person, the child, as God's own. In the midst of the violent deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we hear God's crying out to us, "This is not acceptable, America. God's people, you can do better than this!" There must be a better way to secure safety and protection of all, particularly of our children. There needed to be a time to grieve and to offer the untimely dead back to the One who created them. But there also must be a time for us to speak out on their behalf.
God's people of the Susquehanna Annual Conference, we are a people born out of the fabric of biblical justice and peace. For us to be faithful to the prophetic tradition of our faith, we must join in the efforts for finding better ways that can reduce and prevent gun violence. We know that gun control is a very complicated issue with multiple facets. But simply having more potential means of violence in more places by more people is not in sync with the path that would lead us towards the biblical vision of nonviolence and peace. As our nation engages in the critical gun-related conversation, I would like to encourage the people of the Susquehanna Conference to prayerfully discern what we can do as followers of the Prince of Peace, as well as responsible citizens. Let the Spirit move us to take a new attitude and make different choices from the previous ones.
We observe the Human Relations Day on Sunday, January 20th in celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May his vision of a beloved community for all God's children inspire us and reignite our passion for seeking God's path towards the biblical vision of nonviolence and peace. Those children of Sandy Hook Elementary School who now reside in the heavenly place would make a bigger smile when they know that we stand up for the vision of the Kingdom of God, where untimely death in violence is no more.
The prophet Isaiah in the 11th chapter of the book that bears his name writes: "The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together...". Isaiah held before his people the vision, the dream, in which these animals of natural enemies of each other will live together, no longer foes but lay beside one another, and then he adds, "a little child will lead them". Without taking too much poetic license with the text, I wonder if God could be saying to you and me, "little children will lead them". Will we let them?
Grace and Peace in Christ,