Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
These are four names of 49 individuals shot down early Sunday morning at the Pulse night club in Orlando. I read these four names aloud at Monday night’s vigil in Bronson Park and wept as I read their names because speaking them out loud suddenly made their stories so real as if I knew them myself, as if they were from my own community. How long O Lord? How long? How many times must we invoke this desperate and ancient plea from the Psalmist who longed as badly as we do today for God to return and bring an instant end to the insidious and senseless violence we are facing? How many sacred and safe places have to be soaked in blood before we stand up and say “enough is enough?” How long O Lord? How long?
I don’t know the answer to the question. I do know that it is an appropriate question to ask. I do know that shaking our fists at the sky and screaming or whispering the question repeatedly is as okay for us to ask as it was for the Psalmist. Asking the question is a part of our grief and it is a genuine act of prayer. It is those who do not ask that question that make me tremble for that level of complacency is just as dangerous as a semi-automatic weapon. “Not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act.” to invoke the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer. Or to look at the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” How long O Lord? How long? How long will we turn our heads and pretend that bigotry and racism are not an issue? How long will we pretend that we worship our guns more faithfully that our God? How long?
I don’t know the answer. I only how we are to proceed. Rep. John Hoadley said it well on Monday night, “We will dance again.” We will proceed by proclaiming that we serve a God whose love was stronger than death and therefore we can proclaim love even in the face of death. This is in fact the only option available to those of us who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord for in this confession we proclaim love in the face of death. Violence does not drive away death, only love can do that. So we will surround our LGBTQ brothers and sisters with love and ensure them that our church is a place where we need their voice and their presence at the table to be our best selves. We will join with the Greater United Methodist Church and boldly proclaim that our church is a weapons-free zone. We will proclaim the words of the prophet that “They shall beat their swords into plowshares…” and the words of Jesus when he said “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.”
This is how we go forward in the knowledge and trust that Jesus Christ has already won the victory in his resurrection.