Summary: In the light of a recent mass murder in the US, this message speaks of the consoling and redeeming love of God, express in the parable of the lost son.
[Message given at an outdoor worship service in the summer of 2015 in downtown Toronto, Canada]
This has been a terrible week on this continent. A 21 year old man visited a Bible Study at a historically important Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
After listening to the people talk and pray, he pulled out a gun, and in a racially motivated rage, murdered 9 church members, starting with the pastor of the church.
Absolutely shocking. That a person could hate so much. He wanted to start a race war, he said when he was captured shortly after the massacre.
Brandon Green is associate pastor of River City Community Church in Chicago. He wrote this in an article on Christianitytoday.com
“Not unlike our church, the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston meet every Wednesday for Bible study. And like us, everyone is welcome to attend.
This Wednesday night a man sat among those desiring to study the word and draw closer to God and one another. He sat for an hour, filled with hate, before he began to open fire, killing nine people. A witness heard him saying that he had come to kill black people”.
Pastor Brandon Green continues: “As a black man, I’m left wondering, Where can we go, is there no safe place?
“There was a time when folks would run to the church screaming “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” as if entering the church was like entering an embassy of the kingdom of heaven. The church gave those in harm’s way relief from this world’s unjust laws and hate.
“But it was in this embassy of heaven that our brothers and sisters were met with unbridled hate. The pervasiveness of this evil reminds me that this battle is not one waged against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, an evil not of this world.
“It is clear that the enemy offers us no spiritual diplomatic immunity, that there is no a threshold so sacred that he won’t transgress to inflict pain. His hope is that his hate would cultivate hate in and through us.
The enemy's hope is that we would render ourselves unfit to carry the mantle of ambassadors of the kingdom. His hope is that we will stop worshiping.
“Someone once told me that to worship is to engage in spiritual warfare. We worship not to gloss over the tragedy, not to acquiesce in our pursuit of justice, not to set aside anger and anguish, but the contrary.
“We worship to raise our cry for justice, to proclaim our holy anger, to lament the loss of our brothers and sisters. We worship to say with fervent hearts that there is no hate in this world that is stronger than the love of God.
“We worship with the belief that God’s love will have us see true justice. For in his love is a place for our anger. In his love there is space for our tears. In his love there is space for our doubt and fears. In his love black lives matter. Our tears and anguish, our fatigue and frustration will be our offering, holy and acceptable onto God”.
How do we deal with this? As a middle-aged white man in Toronto, Canada, I’m on one level many steps away from the racial divide in the U.S. But we know that there is racism in Toronto.
Ask any non-white person here and they will express being on the receiving end of the polite variety of Canadian racism. Ask any white person and half of us will say we don’t think there’s a problem with racism.
I once spoke with a funeral director, a black man, in a car on the way to a gravesite. He said he had lived in the US for some time, and he’d lived in Canada for extended periods.
He said he actually preferred American racism because at least it was upfront and honest. You knew where you stood. Here in Canada, he said, it’s pretty much cloaked in our polite society.
But make no mistake, racism exists in Toronto. That was an eye opener for me.
But as Pastor Brandon Green said, and I believe, “there is no hate in this world that is stronger than the love of God… In his love there is space for our tears. In his love there is space for our doubt and fears”.
The love of God. The love of God. The love of God is where we need to go to find solace for the terrible events of our day. The love of God, our Heavenly Father, is what will give us perspective, will lift us, will encourage our hearts in these dark days.
Now, it’s Father’s Day, and we’ve already spent some time honouring our fathers and reflecting on fatherhood.