Some members of my church gathered near the altar last Sunday to pray for those affected by the recent school massacre in Connecticut. Our pastor had a list of the victims, and he asked that we mention each of the families by name.
It wasn’t easy to read that list. It included Daniel Barden, age 7; Charlotte Bacon, 6; Olivia Engel, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; and Jack Pinto, 6. A total of 20 children died in the shootings, plus six adults, including Victoria Soto, the brave first-grade teacher who herded her students into a closet when the gunman approached her classroom. She was 27, the same age as my oldest daughter.
Some people in my church found it too difficult to pray out loud. That’s understandable. But how exactly do we pray when tragedy strikes?
The technological revolutions of today stagger our imaginations. We try to peer into the future, and if we could actually see what the world will be like 10 or 20 years from now, I'm sure that we would be overwhelmed.
This is not the first time, however, that the human race has undergone a technological revolution.
Three thousand years ago when a young man by the name of David became king of Israel, Israel was divided and backward, and was oppressed by its neighbors. Israel was little more than a cluster of primitive tribes living in tents, and people were barely scratching a living from the land.
One of the most difficult things a pastor has to do when a tragedy occurs is to try to find the words to comfort a grieving family and explain how God can allow such a horrible thing to take place. While I do not purport to have all the answers for such situations—sometimes it's best just to be there for grieving families and offer prayer for them rather then give explanations—these instances do highlight the existence of evil in the world.
On the day of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., I was shocked to hear both a prominent television news anchor and the governor of Connecticut use the word evil several times when referring to the heinous act of the shooter. Where doe evil comes from?
Jesus said that the thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He also called him a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Rather than cause me to doubt the existence or goodness of God (like Satan wants), heinous acts like this should remind us that there is a real devil in the world who revels in destroying human life while seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Last Friday, just as our nation was showing the beginning stages of healing from 9-11 to our nation, we took another hit. A total of 26 children and six adults were massacred in a quiet, suburban, elementary school.
The devastation of this small community has rocked the nation. People from all over the nation are sending comfort, wreaths, Christmas trees, toys, ornaments and coffee to the community of Newton, Connecticut. Why does this massacre hurt so much?
Schools are usually considered safe places. In fact, most emergency shelters are in schools. Before 9-11 we felt the U.S was impenetrable. In the last years, churches, colleges and high schools have seen death and violence—and now, an elementary school. The outpouring of love and support to this devastated community shows that we all share in the pain, and we can all share in the recovery.
The burning question this week for me is how will this impact our Christmas services?
Frank Pastore, a Christian radio host and author of the 2010 memoir Shattered: Struck Down, But Not Destroyed, died Dec. 17—nearly a month after suffering serious head injuries from a motorcycle crash in Duarte, Calif. Pastore, 55, had been in a coma since the Nov. 19 accident.
"I just lost my beautiful husband," Pastore's wife, Gina Pastore, told the Inland Daily Bulletin. "But it's comforting to know he's home with the Lord now. People are calling in [to his radio show] and crying and mourning with us.
"I want to thank so many people for their outpouring of love and support," she added. "That's really helped to sustain our family during this difficult time."