Some Thoughts on Orlando

June 16, 2016

I don’t normally send out a letter after tragic events like this.

I didn’t write anything after Aurora, and it was in our own backyard.

I didn’t after Ferguson, and I spent eight years pastoring just across the river.

I didn’t after the shootings in Colorado Springs, just down the road.

It’s not because I’m a coward or that I don’t have anything to say.

Truth be told it’s probably more a personality thing… I figure if you really want to know what I think you’ll probably ask.

Of course, I may be looking at this wrong and it may be that I have a pastoral responsibility to address issues like this.  As an Executive Minister, a middle judicatory leader on the “level” (as it were) with Bishops in other ecclesiologies, maybe I have a responsibility to address some of these issues.  To speak to “my flock”.

But that’s not why I’m writing today.  It is not of a sense of “oughtness” or because any one has specifically asked… it’s just that there has been something nagging about this and all of these situations that doesn’t seem to have been expressed clearly…

Now, there’s a lot of potential fruit to be harvested in this situation… political fruit, philosophical fruit and even theological. And folks have been harvesting a lot of this “fruit”, whether it be about hate and hate crimes, guns and gun violence, terrorism, phobias, particular political agendas and policies, and much, much more.  Theologically there has been a lot of focus on sin and sinfulness as defined by one group or another, justice, the nature of God, etc.  Some have felt the need to justify their theological positions and distance themselves from the radical actions of others while others have used this as an opportunity to press their attack on the deeply held positions of those they see as their theological opponents at best, but the rhetoric seems to sound more like enemies.

But is any of this fruit?  Well maybe.  But if it is it feels like it is similar to Kopi Luwak Coffee Beans… fruit that has been processed by the gastro-intestinal system of society…not pure fruit.  It just doesn’t seem right to advance a political, philosophical or theological agenda on the back of an event like this, and yet this has become common practice.   That isn’t harvesting fruit, it’s pandering at best, generally leads to some sort of mud or (if my observation above is accurate) other type of mater slinging and degenerates into accusations, blame and fault finding with others!  Instead of this kind of “fruit”, might we look for the real thing?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

In Orlando…and in Colorado Springs… and Ferguson… and even Aurora the face of evil was unmasked in our world.  Scripture is clear about this…Satan, however you theologically define and understand him, is alive and well in our world…

…UNTIL THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMES IN ITS FULLNESS.

That’s the fruit.  In all of these events there is the potential to see fore-shadowing of the emerging Kingdom of God.  The little boy hugging the police officer in Ferguson, Fire fighters climbing the tower on 9/11, the people lining up to give blood in Orlando.  By not focusing upon the evil that brought the event about… by not ascribing that evil to God but to Satan… and by focusing upon the response of God through God’s people of all stripes, colors, theologies, propensities, ideologies and whatever other category you can think of, we see the real fruit to be harvested.  In other words, when we stop choosing to be offended by others words and actions in this or any situation, and choose instead to discover God’s grace through those words and actions, we will be blessed.

As Paul advised elsewhere: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

Oh, this won’t work with every pundit out there (Satan is still alive after all and there are still jerks in the world!).  And I do understand we need a time of lament and sorrow.  But I fear we have become a culture who is dwelling upon our hurts and upon our anger and frustration, and not upon our possibility.  And even in this situation, if we look closely enough, not even that hard, we will see God and God’s love.  If we search just a little harder, we can find peace.  And though it does not seem so now, if we give it time, there will be joy in the morning.

In Christ,

Steve Van O

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