I don’t want to write about murders in the church.
From its earliest days the American church has gathered in meadows, in barns, and buildings to meet with the Lord Jesus. Among the group of fellow believers we feel safe. These are our brothers and sisters who share a common love for our Lord, each other, and our community. For a few hours each Sunday the problems of living in a sinful world remain outside our walls as we experience of bit of heaven’s glory in prayer, singing, and hearing from God.
It’s only been a little over two years since a killer entered the midweek prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. He killed 9 that evening. It seems like a distant memory.
Last Sunday another killer passed through the doors of a small Baptist church in Texas and virtually decimated the entire congregation in satanically driven hatred. 27 dead and scores more wounded by injury and scarred by trauma perpetrated on family, neighbors, and friends.
Every Sunday morning before the church arrives at our building, I pray for the safety of God’s people who will gather that day. When we come together this Sunday morning, I will pray again. We are vulnerable not merely because we are a church but because we are human beings living in a world dominated by a murderer and a deceiver (John 8:44). Yet, we are not paranoid to gather together because we are confident in the promises of our Lord to bring us to himself (John 14:3) and we assert the testimony of Paul that “to die is gain.”
So, I will see you this Sunday not in defiance of the human haters but in defiance of the usurper to God’s throne. I will gather my family with yours because my confidence in my Lord is greater than my fear of Satan.
In recent Sundays Protestant churches across the globe sang Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We do well to remember a portion of it.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
Brothers and Sisters from Texas,
Your faith is now sight. Your eternal rest will not disappoint. While your deaths leave us bewildered, weeping, and cautious, your life with Christ makes us hopeful. Would to God my last acts on earth before joining you in the presence of our Lord were joyful singing and trusting prayer before I breathe my last.
As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.