Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Somber greetings in the Lord of Life, Jesus!
Early Sunday morning I received word about the catastrophic slaughter of what is now reported as 49 people mercilessly gunned down at a Club in Orlando. While details continue to emerge and in some cases remain sketchy, this has a tremendous impact on this whole community, and the world is watching us. While the incident took place at a gay nightclub, the effect is felt well beyond. These victims, including the shooter, were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. They were co-workers and probably even some who worshipped in area churches. So many lives tragically cut short. Many are still hospitalized and we don’t know if the number of dead will continue to grow.
In these days there are very few families that aren’t impacted in some way by the LGBT community. Our hearts are broken for these families who have been torn apart. This has been described as the worst killing spree in the United States. It has left many in fear, traumatized by these heinous events. It’s a stark reminder that we live in a broken world.
Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, has asked that community vigils not be planned right now as it puts a further strain on already stretched law enforcement officers. Both Trinity Lutheran and Prince of Peace are planning their own vigils for later this week. We will post information as it becomes available about other activities. Right now law enforcement is focused on protecting and assisting victims of this crime and doesn’t need additional community concerns. We are working with the City of Orlando, through Pastor Billy Brath, to provide assistance in whatever way might seem best. Dr. Rick Armstrong with Lutheran Counseling Services has assured me that they stand ready to help as well. In addition, Tim Hetzner with Lutheran Church Charities in Chicago has offered to bring K-9 Comfort Dogs to help bring comfort to those who are grieving, throughout Orlando.
What can you do? Please pray for this city. Satan is working overtime, instilling fear and hate in many. We need to respond in the love of Jesus. Yesterday morning I worshipped at Prince of Peace in Orlando, and Pastor Ken Green preached on the Good Samaritan. While this was not planned with this present tragedy in mind it spoke loudly. Jesus commended the Samaritan for putting his personal beliefs aside to help someone in need. He didn’t focus on the differences or the things that kept them apart, he simply led with his heart and cared for the one in need. Hurting and confused people are all around us, not just those impacted by this event, but in all our communities impacted by hate, prejudice and fear. We can make a difference by standing together in the love of Jesus. Regardless of all the differences, despite the fact that we are all sinners, the love of Jesus is more powerful! His love is more powerful than fear, more powerful than hate, more powerful than differences, even more powerful than our sin, which often divides.
The Apostle John writes, in his first Epistle, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:18–21).
This is the time for us to brightly shine with the love of Jesus; to be those havens of love and grace that Jesus has called His church to be. This is a time to be not just hearers of the Word, but doers. This is not a time to be arm-chair quarterbacks. This is not a time to stand in judgment or condemnation. This is a time to not only talk about the love of Jesus, but to find ways to show it, wherever we may be.
Satan continues to wage his war, but we know how the story ends! We have the victory in Jesus! He is the solution to the problems of the world. So with the writer to the Hebrews, I encourage you, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’” (Heb 12:2–3).
In times like these, when our hearts are aching and filled with confusion, we can still trust the God who brought order out of chaos, and continues to do that even now. In all these things He is somehow at work for good! We can place our trust in Him.
Again, please pray for Orlando, as we trust the Lord to give us wisdom in the midst of hurt.
In God’s peace,
President, FLGA District, LCMS