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Neither Helpless Nor Hopeless

Summary: Pastor Bryan shares some thoughts on this week's tragic events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas.

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I’m just back from 8 days in China, and still catching up on the tragic events of this past week in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas. As grateful as I am for this great nation in which we live, I am grieved that we continue to struggle with racial injustice and wanton violence. We will be setting aside time for reflection and prayer in our services this Sunday. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the thoughts offered up this week by members of our pastoral team, attached below.

I joined a conference call this morning with leading pastors from Dallas and other cities that have suffered violent deaths in recent months. Several of them lamented the hopelessness that the black community is feeling and the helplessness that the white community is experiencing. As real as those emotions are, and I have felt both of them again this morning, we must remind ourselves that as people of God we are neither hopeless nor helpless.

Our hope and help is in Christ, who has shown us a better way, and who is at work in the world today to advance a Kingdom marked by peace, justice, and oneness of all people. The apostle Paul reminds us that

“His purpose was to create one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”  - Ephesians 2:15-16

While Paul was speaking of the division between Jews and Gentiles, Christ’s purpose surely applies to every division that exists among human beings, all of whom are made in God’s image. As one pastor on the call put it today, “the role of the church is more profound than ever before” in showing our nation and the world a better way.

Here at Grace Chapel there is much we can do and are doing, as we intentionally pursue multicultural community, provide safe spaces to discuss these issues, address systemic needs and injustices in our city, and proclaim in word and deed God’s grander vision for humankind.

May He grant grace and courage to those who seek this vision, and may He grant comfort and healing to those who are grieving these days.

Read Pastor Ruthie's post, Come Quickly Lord Jesus

Come Quickly Lord Jesus

Summary: On the heels of celebrating our nation's independence, and those who've given their lives to defend our freedom, we are faced with the tragedy of current events.

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As a nation we just celebrated the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. A day to remember not only our fight to govern ourselves, but also to honor all those who have given their lives to preserve that very freedom. A freedom that was heralded from Old North Church to Lexington and Concord in 1775, that rang out from the Liberty Bell in the steeple of the Pennsylvania Court House in 1776, and that was sealed with the defeat at Yorktown in 1782. Seven years of conflict, and a new nation was born. But over the years conflict has continued to rear its ugly head.

The Civil War tore apart not only our nation, but whole families. The battlefield of Gettysburg still bears the reminders of one of the bloodiest days in our nation’s history. The film Glory tells the story of Col. Robert Shaw of Boston, leading the first regiment of black soldiers to fight alongside white soldiers to preserve the Union. The war ended in 1865 but the conflicts continued.

Some of those conflicts had names: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Men and women courageously took up arms – some for a cause that was clear and compelling, others seemed uncertain, yet all served with distinction and we honor those willing to serve. Each of these wars came to an end, but the conflicts continued. The morning of September 11 dawned a bright, beautiful, sunny day, until hijacked aircraft slammed into the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon, and a PA meadow. A war on terror was declared, but the enemy is elusive, and conflicts continue. Just in the last few weeks, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, Saudi Arabia. Terror has entered our schools, movie theaters, the Marathon finish line, a dance club in Orlando. Gunfire rings out, lives are lost, a nation grieves.

I am at a loss to address the most recent events across our nation. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the names of the two most recent men whose lives have been cut short. These tragedies have been followed by an attack on police officers. Five lay slain in the streets of Dallas, TX. There is so much we do not understand, but one thing is clear.

“The Enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."

So while we do not understand all the circumstances surrounding these latest disturbing events, may we join our hearts in prayer and mourning for the black community, the police community, the gay community, the Muslim community, the human community. May we boldly proclaim every life matters, for Jesus died that all might live. On the first Easter morning the war against the Enemy was won, but the conflicts continue.

Come quickly Lord Jesus, come.