It was an early autumn night. 72 degrees with a gentle breeze. The neon lights were shining, the country singers were crooning, and 22,000 people were enjoying a particular kind of bliss that only live music can inspire.
And then bullets, crashing glass, blood, screaming, running and chaos.
Last Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas was senseless and jarring. It was unfair, and it makes no sense.
My cousin was there at the music festival. She ran for safety, and mercifully, she is physically safe. It is a terrible trauma for all involved. It is also emotionally wounding for all who have seen the images and videos on their cell phones, computers and television screens. How entirely, indescribably horrific.
We give great thanks for the first responders, police officers, and other emergency personnel who respond to incidents like these. Their willingness to face danger in order to prevent further harm shines a bright light of hope into the world.
Violent acts like the shooting in Las Vegas are unimaginable. Or at least they would be unimaginable if they didn't keep happening. Instead, they are entirely imaginable. It seems impossible that as a nation we could ever become desensitized to such carnage, and yet that seems to be exactly what is happening. I sense it within my own brain. I see the violent images, I hear the heart-wrenching stories, and then somehow I continue eating breakfast.
After incidents like this one, we mourn and grieve and rack our brains for "why?" We kiss our beloveds and squeeze them extra tight. We wonder how to help. We ponder what could prevent such terror. We grieve. We pray.
Then what? What do we do next? Holy Spirit, we are begging for your guidance. What do we do now?
Perhaps in order to keep going and remain sane, some of us have begun telling ourselves that this is just the new normal.
But it isn't normal. Friends, we have to remind ourselves that this is not normal. Violence isn't normal. Mass shootings aren't regular occurrences. It doesn't have to be this way.
What if there is more that we are called to do? What if this we let this be a catalyst? What if our collective outrage and grief can propel change? Can we sit with this uncomfortable feeling long enough to be transformed? God grant us courage.
I don't know the solution. I don't believe there is one ultimate fix. I believe it will take a broad range of solutions involving research, advocacy, and a willingness to question whether our current gun legislation reflects what is truly best for our country and its citizens.
We can't allow ourselves to become numb to violence. The answer rests not in blame. The answer rests not in politicizing. The answer rests in deciding to remain emotionally and collectively engaged in the issue.
Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Christ Lutheran Church in Preston. The gospel text for the day was from Matthew, chapter 21. In it Jesus asks a group of well-intentioned religious people, "Why weren't you willing to change your minds about John?"
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek version of the word "change your mind" is metamelomai. It more accurately translates as "Why didn't you care afterward?" or "Why didn't you have a change of heart after you absorbed new information?" or "Why weren't you willing to look back and rethink your opinions?"
As a nation, is this an opportunity to change our minds? To think in a new way? To believe that it doesn't have to be this way? To trust that the Holy Spirit has something to say on the topic?
Lord in your mercy, please hear our prayers and inspire us to right action.