Pastor’s Ponderings

“You shall not murder” Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 (NRSV)

Repeatedly, I go to sleep at night after the nightly news and wake up in the morning to have the media report to us that a mass shooting has taken place. Be in a supermarket, a place of worship, an entertainment gathering, on the street, and repeatedly in our schools. With most of these horrifying actions taking place using weapons designed for assault purposes whether it be selecting targets or random assaults by individuals who give little or no value to human life and in the end little or no value to their own lives.

We, as followers of Jesus Christ and as United Methodists, must do more now and not later to move towards perfection in eliminating acts of violence and murder. To remain silent, or take no action is saying that it is OK to take someone’s life and we sin by violating the sixth commandment when we allow murder to take place and continually take no responsibility to prevent violence and the loss of life.

My heart aches as I pray for those whose lives have been affected by the violence. We, as a nation, have allowed and are experiencing horrific acts of violence against others now. Jesus over and over tells us to pray unceasingly, and he gives us examples where he went away to pray in private. After praying, Jesus took action in many ways to heal those individuals and situations that were broken and of which He prayed for. We must continue to pray, reach out and work for change and reform to reduce and eliminate violence in our society today and into the future.

“As United Methodists, we have taken a number of different stances and actions against injustices, and we have developed Social Principles that we are committed to. We, as United Methodists, affirm our faith in God our Creator and Father, in Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit. We, as United Methodists, affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God’s will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ. We have not always been faithful stewards of all that has been committed to us by God the Creator. We have been reluctant followers of Jesus Christ in the mission to bring all persons into a community of love. We have resisted the further call to become the people of God in our dealing with each other and the earth on which we live. We are grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirm our belief in the worth of individuals, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, and to the depths of our common life and work together. The rights and privileges we have as a society bestowed upon us or withhold from us those who would compromise the rights and privileges of others. As a society, however, particular persons and groups have no more rights than others. Society must recognize the equality of value that each one of us has in the sight of God. We, therefore, must work towards recognizing each person’s value, maintaining that value, and strengthening our world. We, as United Methodists, support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances and physical protection. We deploy acts of hate or violence against groups or individuals based on race, color, national origin, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the human dignity of all persons leads us to protect the principals of human rights for not only the individual but our community that we may all enjoy God’s creation. We are to recognize the rights of individuals and groups, but they may not be asserted or over the fundamental rights of other individuals or groups.” (Paraphrased from the 2016 Book of Discipline and Social Principles United Methodist Church).

The United Methodist 2016 Book of Resolutions number 3428 states that Jesus is calling to his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). This calling is tied to an intimate relationship with God and echoes God’s dream for peace for all of creation as expressed in Micah 4:1-4. In the United States, more than any other country, gun violence has far exceeded that of other nations. The use of assault rifles and other military armament as weapons of violence can no longer be allowed to exist as individual rights. Such armament was not designed for protection as our constitution gives us but for aggressive violence against others. There is far too much more that needs to be addressed about the violence in our world that has allowed us to become immune to what is happening that I can cover here in just our June Newsletter. In the next few weeks, I will be preparing a message to be delivered to you on a Sunday when I want to continue to address our position as United Methodists against the violence we have tolerated in our country and the world. I will discuss with you how we can affect a change and who we are as God’s children as we live into the reality of God’s desire of Shalom for us which is described in the Book of Micah. We will do that as we address the epidemic of violence and specifically gun violence so, “That Jesus may teach us his ways and that we may walk in God’s path.” We, as United Methodists, are called upon to prayerfully address violence in our local communities and our nation. We must also look at what we can do as individuals, a church, a community, and a nation to act in preventing violence in the future.

Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” God commanded us as his children, “You shall not murder.”

Live In Peace,

Pastor Gary

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