In the few years I’ve been at Linworth, I’ve shared why I’m thankful to be appointed here as Senior Pastor. I’ve shared both from the pulpit and in classroom and conversation why I’m United Methodist. But today, dear ones, let me share simply one of the reasons that I choose, day in and day out, to follow Jesus.
Jesus cried; not only cried… Jesus wept.
Now, before you get too far down the “the shortest Bible verse” rabbit hole, let me state that Jesus experienced a wide range of emotions. We hear of Jesus being angry, grieved, lonely, exhausted, awed, and so many more experiences of the human existence. But scripture only tells us that Jesus wept twice. I choose to believe he wept more than what is recorded, but scripture points us to two specific occasions of Jesus being moved to tears. The first is at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35), and the second is when he looks out over the city of Jerusalem and ponders the violence and injustice that has befallen it (Luke 19:41-45).
Jesus weeps over the loss of life, and Jesus weeps over injustice and violence. Unfortunately again we find ourselves at the intersection of the two, and so if there is any comfort to be had, it is that God’s heart is breaking along with ours after another senseless loss of life. And while we asks ourselves how this can happen, we must each examine the ways that we participate in systems that allow events like what happened in Uvalde to happen again and again.
You might be thinking, “But Pastor Anna, please don’t politicize this tragedy,” and you’re right. This is not the time to lob our partisan policy frustrations across the aisle at others, but this is the time to examine how Jesus would call us to actively care for all members of God’s family. Please allow me the parental privilege* of stating how, like so many of you, my spouse and I wept over our child last night, both thankful tears for her safety and the tears of helplessness for those whose babies did not come home from school yesterday. I also laid awake thinking of my own mother, who taught 3rd grade for decades and would have done anything for her students, and how our teachers and school support staff are hurting, too, imagining themselves in the news stories that are still unfolding.
We, the pastors and staff of Linworth United Methodist Church are praying deeply for all those who are impacted by gun violence. We are examining our own policies and procedures so that our facility is as safe as it can be for the church community, the Children’s Center, and all who come to this place seeking grace. And we are always seeking to live more fully into our core values, one of which states, “We value God’s call for us to take action beyond ourselves and our local church by being committed to issues of social justice.”
Just as Pastor Gene named those killed in Buffalo in prayer this past Sunday, we will name the victims from Uvalde in our prayers on Sunday. If there are any ways that the pastors can support you, especially in response to this tragedy, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Rev. Anna Guillozet
* For those who are parents, grandparents, or caretakers of children, I just want to urge you to live in a bit of potential discomfort. I am not a perfect parent, nor do I claim to be an expert on child development or psychology, but our default is often temptation to say nothing in an attempt to shield a child from this horrific violence. Chances are very high that they will hear about this shooting whether it is from you or not. Being silent won’t protect them from what happened, but only prevent them from understanding and coping with it under the support of a trusted adult who can listen, correct inaccurate information, and offer comfort. In this moment, allow yourself to grieve, be angry, be scared. It is deeply important to care for yourself, too. Most importantly, remember that it is ok to not have all the answers your kids may seek. They don’t need you to have every answer. They need you to create space for them to be heard, process, have their feelings validated and be assured that they are safe and loved. Besides the practical and developmental resources below, our faith in God offers us some concrete ways to respond which can be especially important in moments where kids feel otherwise helpless. Try lighting a candle together as a physical reminder that Jesus is the light of the world and that God’s light shines in the darkest moments. Invite your child to draw a picture that shares their prayer for those who are suffering. Read Psalm 23 together and focus on God’s presence with us in times of fear or suffering.