What a weekend! In spite of a shooting rooted by evil in Charleston, SC, God’s love has been incredibly tangible for me this weekend and I can hardly stand it while typing this.
First of all, let me tell you about Charleston. Charleston is a city rooted in progressive tradition. It has a strong community and seeks to replicate that feeling throughout businesses and day-to-day operation. On Wednesday, a man walked into a bile study at Mother Emanuel AME church. He sat through about an hour of the study and then shot nine people to death because he “had to.” Our city fell to their knees in prayer. Our city came together to show this man that although lives had been lost, he was most certainly not about to claim a victory.
I had an opportunity to go to one of the prayer vigils that Saturday night with a friend of mine. I was shocked. I have never been in the face of tragedy in that sense before. The images you see on TV of large crowds gathering to pray and light candles are nothing like playing a part in it for yourself. People of all races came together in support for those who were forced to make an ultimate sacrifice for our God. What an experience! What a wonderful relief that in the face of tragedy and mourning, God showed up in Charleston and transformed lives by showing people God’s love.
That was just Saturday.
On Sunday, I got to church and our service started with an on-stage dialogue between our pastor, discipleship pastor, and worship leader. They articulated some of the feelings they experienced after hearing about the shooting at Emanuel AME. Sadness. Anger. Hope. In a world that is sometimes driven by the destruction of others, people need Jesus. “Without him, we’re shooting each other, and that’s not okay” is what the pastor articulated in her message. That’s exactly right. She also went on to say that we are not to be silent about this. This is the time to tell people about Jesus. We can’t stop waiting around for other people to act because WE are called to act. Us. Christians. Can you believe that? What a concept. It was a great Sunday message. Goodness I love church.
That was just Sunday morning.
Sunday night, I helped our church distribute meals from our food truck to a group of teenagers staying at a local church during their mission trip. The message that evening offered an idea that although we don’t see ourselves as superheroes, sometimes we are portrayed as such figures. However, it is important to realize from whom our “superpower” comes. Not where, but whom. Our power comes from God and to God we owe glory. Charleston saw this glory as people gathered to share sadness. Charleston experienced this as they gave God glory, asking to be taught something from this and for God to use this as a tool for ministry.
This weekend was full of experiences that remind me of how we can experience God’s love. We can join together and pray for fallen people. We can lead people to comprehend the impacts of the actions of others and how to respond. We can chorale teenagers to remind them that God holds our power and distributes it to us so that we can respond to others’ needs, like in Acts 4.
With all of this, my adrenaline went crazy and I felt like I needed to write about it, so here you have it. How great is it that we have a God who loves us so graciously? A God who shows us that showing up is possible not necessarily by intervening and stopping the bad things from happening, but by using people in our lives to show us how we ought to live when they do happen.
It’s a tangible love and I have felt it all weekend long. It was thick and unescapable. I feel energized and refreshed. That’s the church I know. That’s the kingdom coming down upon us and forcing us to act. That’s Jesus.