Summary: Using the sermon time for more praying than preaching in light of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Keeping Your Commitments

A Prayerful Response to the Virginia Tech Shootings

Rev. Brian Bill


The deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history took place this past Monday morning on the campus of Virginia Tech. Let’s take a moment of silence here to reflect on what happened and to honor the victims.

In light of this, I’ve been led by the Lord to change the direction of the sermon this morning. Let me say up front that I have no interest, or expertise for that matter, in joining the cacophony of voices in our culture that are attempting to analyze this event from a political or psychological perspective. I don’t want to play the “blame game” but instead want us to turn to God. And, while I normally take to preaching when tragedy shows up, this morning we’re going to focus more on praying. I had lunch with a friend this week who asked me what I was going to say in response to this situation. I told him that I don’t have a lot to say but that there’s a lot we can pray.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot that needs to be said in a sermon when a crisis hits our country and I did that after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. But this morning the Lord wants more praying than preaching. Why is that?

1. Our country has lost its spiritual compass. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” A friend in Chicago shared this perceptive insight in an email I received this week: “I’ve been thinking about the consequences our nation has and is suffering as a result of pushing God aside and declaring Him irrelevant. In doing this, it seems to me that we (as a nation) have also disavowed any notion of evil or an evil one.”

2. Our culture is filled with violence, evil and disrespect for life. As I was watching Hardball with Chris Matthews Wednesday night, I was stunned by the footage NBC received from the Virginia Tech murderer. It was both eerie and evil. When Chris Matthews went to a break a couple commercials ran and then, right before going back to his show, a movie trailer came on for a new Anthony Hopkins film that was filled with multiple gunshots, bloody knives and horrified hostages. This cultural disconnect has damaged us.

I wonder if we are reaping violence in our culture today because we have sown violence on the screen, on computer games, and in our own minds. In an article called How TV Affects Your Child, this statement is made: “To give you perspective on just how much violence kids see on TV, consider this: The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. TV violence sometimes begs for imitation because violence is often demonstrated and promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want.”

But there seems to be something more going on that can’t be explained by psychiatrists or paid TV pundits. The Bible says that Adam planted the seed of sin in each of our hearts, and this sown seed has grown into the weed of wickedness, destruction, and death. Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Chuck Colson hit it on the head when he wrote these words this week: “We are uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil…what Christians call the demonic…Events like this not only horrify us—they unsettle us. We think of sin and the demonic as not-so-quaint relics from a superstitious age. And even more destructive, random events like this remind us how little we know about ourselves and what we are capable of, as well. But failing to call evil “evil” misleads us about the world we live in and our need for God’s grace, the only real answer and hope for any of us” (Breakpoint, 4/19/07).

Incidentally, in the midst of death this past week, the Supreme Court did rule in favor of life by upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion.

3. Our churches have a lot of work to do. If we want revival in our land, it has to begin with the church of God and specifically it must start with you, and with me. 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God…” This is a wake-up call for Christians to make sure we are sharing the gospel and spreading grace to the lonely, isolated and angry people around us. Jesus is the only answer.

4. Our greatest challenge is always spiritual. Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” My friend from Chicago concluded his email with these words: “This story has gripped me especially on two levels. First, in my flesh, I too am capable of horrendous evil acts. Second, how many Cho Seng-Hui’s have crossed my path by God’s leading? What did I do with this opportunity?” Ephesians 6:12 reminds us: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” After being challenged to put on our armor, Ephesians 6:18 says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

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