Summary: This is not the time for the true church to be silent in the face of people’s grief and uncertainty
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
April 23, 2007 was exactly one week after the now infamous massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech. I turned on the news that morning, as is my habit, to listen to what’s going on around the world while I prepare for my day.
At 9:45 AM eastern time, 7:45 AM mountain time where I live, a vigil began on that campus, attended by students, teachers, staff, family, friends, all pausing to pay homage to those who died.
A bell was rung once for each of the murder victims, tolling slowly. I didn’t time the tones but it seemed like there was approximately a minute between each one. Aside from that mournful bell the site was silent. White balloons, also one for each victim, were released into the sky to coincide with the ringing of the bell.
After the first few minutes the news program shrunk the campus scene to the corner of the screen and went on with the news, but in honor of the ceremony taking place there they let the camera run on it as they talked of other things.
So the bell continued to toll. One ring. And the newscaster spoke of another school that had to be evacuated due to a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax.
Another ring. A news announcer gave the Dow Jones report for the day. Another ring, as they talked about someone being arrested for something.
I had stopped listening and begun focusing on something else. But in the background, until I finally got around to turning off the television, there was the slow but steady tone of that bell. One ring for each victim of a terrible, senseless rampage conducted by a deranged and hopeless man.
They had announced that these folks were holding a “Moment of Silence” for their friends and loved ones, although due to the nature of the incident they did not know what the actual time duration of that “Moment of Silence” would be.
Now I know that calling for a moment of silence in a public gathering to honor someone recently deceased is not a new thing. I have no idea when it may have first been adopted in history, nor where. I only know that I myself have been in gatherings in past years where a moment of silence was called for, and with everyone else in the place I bowed my head and waited for the person who had the floor to break the silence and continue on with the proceedings.
Well, now I am a preacher of the good news of Jesus Christ. During the years that I have been in this role our nation has experienced events so dramatic and shocking, that just the mention of the location in which they took place evokes vivid memories and mental images of disaster.
Waco, Texas. Columbine High School. Oklahoma City. The World Trade Center (or the ‘Twin Towers’). And now, Virginia Tech.
The administrators of that school determinedly and very appropriately declared that they would not let this terrible incident define Virginia Tech.
It is good that they will put plans into motion to set things back on an even keel there; but it’s going to be a while.