Hearts are broken across our country as we absorb the horrific violence that occurred the night before last at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The reality of the “spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God” and the “evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God,” as well as the “sinful desires that draw us from the love of God” is starkly obvious. In the succinct and unambiguous language of our baptismal vows: We renounce them.
You may be aware that I have a special relationship of Delegated Episcopal Oversight with the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston. It is a city that I have grown quite fond of during my time in that role. I have been in contact with the rector of Holy Communion, Father Dow Sanderson, conveying my own personal distress over this event, and assuring him of the love and prayers of the Diocese of Springfield. Holy Communion will be celebrating a Requiem Mass this evening for those who lost their lives. That is indeed the highest and best thing that Christians can do in a situation like this.
That the victims of this crime perished during the very act of gathering around the Word of God, endeavoring to move from glory to glory in the image of their Lord, walking the way of discipleship, sanctifies their witness. They are martyrs. May God receive them into the arms of his mercy.
Christians have one compelling message in this moment: Jesus lives and God reigns. Hatred speaks, but the God of Love has the last word. Violence speaks, but the Prince of Peace has the last word. Death speaks, but the Lord of Life has the last word.
The second collect for mission in the office of Morning Prayer seems especially apposite this morning. I commend it to you:
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In Christ’s love,