“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” 

(John 1:5)

It was Monday April 15, the cell phone text read,  “Did you hear about Notre Dame?”  I was in the church office and had not heard about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.  My thoughts immediately went to Notre Dame, Indiana.  “Would those I know and love be there on a Monday in April? Was anyone killed?”  I decided to check the news for details before my thoughts went any further.  I exhaled, it was sad that Notre Dame Cathedral was burning in Paris but I was grateful it wasn’t another massacre on a university campus.  My immediate reaction demonstrates a definitive shift in our culture.  I and countless others don’t ask, “Will there be another shooting?”  The unspoken question is, “When and where will be the next shooting?  Will it be close to home?” Tuesday the answer was, “Stem School, Highlands Ranch and yes, close to home.”

 You know what happened, you read the news and watched the images on television.   Since the Notre Dame Cathedral burned, madness has been projected across our screens, our world, and it is very close to home.  A young woman’s threat to harm students shut down one hundred and forty school districts in Colorado and then she took her own life.  Innocents were killed while attending church on Easter morning in Sri Lanka.  A gunman opened fire in a synagogue while people worshipped in California.

Tuesday, eight students were injured and one killed by people they knew. 

Beginning in pre-school our children practice how to protect themselves against the madness of those that chose evil.   Many of us know what it was like to hide under our desks or sit in the hall with our heads covered – terrified by the threat of tornadoes or nuclear destruction.  (I still don’t understand how hiding under a desk helps to protect you from an atom bomb).  Now children practice locking predators, which may be fellow schoolmates, out of their classroom, placing barricades in front of the door, and hiding in a corner.  The evil of this day doesn’t know the allegiance of country, the boundaries of battlefield or the difference between soldier, civilian, and child. 

At the time of baptism, membership, and ordination Presbyterians answer the following question, “Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?”  I remember a time when people’s eyes would widen as if to say, “What an absurd question, of course I renounce evil!”  The significance of this question is clear during the darkness of these days.  There are people who choose evil.  They are led to this choice for countless reasons but in the end they choose to harm another: to terrify, to paralyze, to destroy life.  Those that follow the Risen Christ renounce evil and it’s power in this world. We commit our lives to the love of God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

 The Gospel of John teaches us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:5)  Christ-followers are called to live and testify to Christ’s light. We are called to be messengers of God’s love for the world.  The Lord commands us to proclaim that the battle between good and evil has already been won in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus will return and as we wait for that glorious day, we are Jesus’ messengers of forgiveness and salvation and hope and peace love and joy.

I write to encourage you in the grace, love, and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus’ promise that he is ALWAYS with us and until the end of the age.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Mathew 28:19-20)  The cries of those lost to hopeless despair are deafening and the task to shine Christ’s light into the world immense but we must place our trust in the Living Lord and follow where he leads.  We cannot shrug our shoulders, bury our heads, and let the massacres become a “normal” and “expected” part of our lives or the lives of those that follow us. 

I firmly believe that Church of the Hills is called to honor the traditions of our mothers and fathers and set the table of faith for the future servants of Jesus’ church.  You, my beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, have walked through World War II and the wars that followed.  You have lived through cultural unrest that changed the fabric of our nation.  You are faithful Christians that stayed the course and lifted high the cross.  In this hour, in this darkness, what Christ-centered wisdom are you called to proclaim?  What Christ-centered words of hope do your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren need to hear?  What Christ centered truth is upon your lips that Jesus is asking you to teach?

I have a friend who knows children that attend Stem School.  Before she knew if these children were safe, we had a gut-wrenching exchange of texts.  I wrote, “Remember — the darkness will NEVER overcome the Light of Christ.  His love prevails despite the insanity that looms far too close.”  She replied, “Thank God.”  The children she knows are well but as we know, Kendrick Castillo’s life was ended.  It is difficult to imagine the depth of his family and friend’s pain. 

Beloved, we don’t have the luxury of silence.  I invite you to join me in the following prayers. 

 

Lord God,

We thank you for your Word.  We praise you that there is nothing that can separate us from your love in Jesus Christ.  May the words that Paul wrote to the church in Rome be ingrained into our hearts and minds.  May we have the resolve to share this truth with those that are desperate to hear good news. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)

  • We pray for the family of Kendrick. Surround them with counselors.  Assure them of the promise of everlasting life.  Comfort, bless, and sustain them in their grief.
  • We ask for you to anoint Reverend Justin Spurlock, Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Highlands Ranch, with your wisdom as he counsels the members of the congregation who have children and grand children that attend Stem School.Grant Justin with good health, adequate rest, and the vision you know he needs for your people.
  • We ask that you protect and calm the hearts of the children, teachers, and administrators that are frighten to go back to their schools, specifically the children of Highlands Ranch.
  • May you be with and sustain faith leaders, first responders, and all those that are on the front line of violence.
  • Guide the families of those that commit these horrific crimes. We pray that you will hear their cries and have mercy upon them.
  • Shroud the victims and the families of all those that have experienced the horror of senseless violence with your protective peace. Grant them the ability to rest and to place their trust in you.  From Sri Lanka, to Aurora, to Sandy Hook, to Las Vegas, to Columbine, to Poway California, to Pittsburg Pennsylvania, to Christ Church New Zealand, to Arvada, to Virginia Tech, to Charlotte North Carolina, to Roseburg Oregon, to Highlands Ranch, and beyond. 
  • As a denomination, a presbytery, and a mountain church, grant us the wisdom of how to share your love with those that are lost in the darkness. Reveal to us how to proclaim the new life that is found in you.  Refine our voices to your cause so all may know the love that is found in you.It is your promise that the darkness will not over come the light found in Christ Jesus, our Lord, so please help us to be wise for you and obedient to your call for Church of the Hills.In Christ’s Jesus name we pray, 

Amen

My beloved, may we shine in His name and to His Glory,

Pastor Susan