Swamped at Night

Mark 4:35-5:1

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?  1They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 

Last night, my eyes popped open sometime around 2 or 3 a.m., and I found myself wide awake, anxious and worried about the virus and its effects. Questions and uncertainty echoed and re-echoed in my mind: How long will it last? Whom will it affect? How many will die? Will I be one? Maurie? Our children or grandchildren? It didn’t take long before I was quite worked up.

Then, these verses came to mind.

In Jesus’ day, bodies of water were considered to be places of danger. People were afraid of them because demons and evil spirits were believed to dwell in the depths. Even worse, on that night, Jesus and his disciples were on the Sea of Galilee, which was famous for sudden, intense storms that swamped boats and drowned their occupants. Jesus’ disciples, most of whom were fishermen, were keenly aware of the threat.

Sure enough, a sudden storm whipped up while they were still at sea, and winds and waves began swamping the boat as Jesus slept peacefully in its stern. The disciples, gripped by fear, cried out, “Don’t you care that we’re dying?”

We are living in a time like that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. Christians are not exempt from the winds and waves of the times. And, it is quite human for us to be afraid and anxious about it. After all, the coronavirus has changed most of our daily and weekly routines, the news is rife with tales of life-and-death, and an invisible threat is on the loose. We are well outside of our comfort zones. In these uncertain times, it is almost natural to worry about ourselves, our family and friends, our country and our future.

But, as I soon remembered early this morning, now is also the exact time to claim our faith.  Indeed, if we find ourselves frightened enough, it is even a good time to cry out in our fear, “Jesus, don’t you care?!”

So, I did, and I began to pray. Soon, peace came to me and I drifted back to sleep.

Mind you, I don’t claim here that Jesus takes away all fear. That night on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples’ fear did end as Jesus calmed the storm. However, our storm still rages. The winds and waves of the time still threaten us. But my point is that claiming our faith does take the edge off and allows us to face the night and the day. As I found out last night, that is more than good enough. Amen.

The Age of Coronavirus

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalms 42:1-9; Matthew 11:2-7

I planned to continue our Sermon on the Mount series today and by Wednesday night had almost finished a sermon on the portion of the SOM which include the Lord’s Prayer.

God knows that we need prayer and a lot of it right now. However, by Thursday morning, it seemed that the earth had shifted under our feet and we found ourselves living in a different age than the one in which we began the week.

As I watched the early news that day, it seemed that something other than a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer was needed because we have entered the Age of the Coronavirus.

May it be short-lived and its consequences only minor. . . but experts are not predicting that will be the case. As you know, most predict serious consequences and some are saying that they will be long-term.

Truthfully, though, I guess the Age of Coronavirus arrived two months ago and I only noticed it this week.

Jesus tells us to pay attention to the signs of the times, doesn’t he? I had failed to do so, but woe be to us if we do not pay attention to them now, for the signs of the time ring out loudly around us.

The times are dangerous.

I checked some statistics in preparation for this sermon. The following are all from the Center for Diseases Control website.

At the end of January, the coronavirus was reported to be in China and 20 other countries. In those countries, a bit over 8000 cases had been reported. The death toll stood at 150.

As of yesterday (3/14/20), some six weeks later, the virus had spread to 130 countries and the total number of cases had climbed from that 8,000 to over 150,000. The death toll, meanwhile, increased from 150 to 5614.

All of these are increases along the lines of four or five hundred per cent, at least according to my rather shaky mathematical abilities.

And, it also was last week when the WHO declared the virus to be a pandemic.

Around mid-week, we started hearing of cancellations, closings and delays.

The NCAA tournament, the Masters, the NBA season, the rest of spring training and the first few weeks of the regular season for Major League baseball.

Some cruise lines shut down trips for at least one month. Others shut down for two months

Disneyland, Disneyworld, Six Flags, Sea World and other theme parks went dark.

School districts and universities cancelled classes and/or extended spring break.

And, it was Thursday morning when a case popped up in Austin. It was a man over 60 who had been transferred from a rural hospital somewhere in the Central Texas region. That hit home. It could have been one of us.

I also was surprised Thursday morning to open an email from our district superintendent in Kerrville saying that the decision to hold services would be left up to each church.

You are probably aware by now that many churches in the United States and across the world have cancelled services or are having online services only.

These include churches not just in so-called virus “hot spots” but also churches which are exercising precautions, not so much in worshipping God as in hosting a public gathering that might threaten the health of those in attendance as well as the health of those who might come into contact with someone who attended.

Please note that I am not asking that we cancel our services right now because of our small size. However, as we talked about last week, we need to exercise the recommended social distancing and hygienic precautions.

In addition, many churches that are still holding services have suspended celebrating the Lord’s Supper or have begun using prepackaged communion sets.

Consistent with this, I have ordered 250 prepackaged sets for us. However, these will not ship until Tuesday at the earliest. Hopefully, they will arrive in time for the first Sunday of April. If not, we will need to make other plans that may include suspension of the Lord’s Supper.

So that is a quick summary of coronavirus news and how the ground shifted under us this past week.

However, I also did an internet search to see how other churches, theologians and pastors regarded the coronavirus. I looked at the websites of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian church, Episcopal church, Church of Scotland, United Church of Christ as welll as that of others.

They all excelled in listing the hygienic and social contact considerations and other related matters, but at his point, I was more interested in theological and spiritual issues.

I had two main questions rolling around in my mind.

The first was, “Where is God in this?” I wanted to find out how our Christian brothers and sisters saw God moving in these times.

I had a tentative answer in mind. That is why these verses from Exodus were read today.

That question, “Where is God?” was stated a little bit differently in those verses. You might remember in verse 7, the question was stated, “Is the Lord still with us or not?” However stated, the thoughts come from essentially the same point of view: where is God in hard times such as these?

You might remember the background to these verses. God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them across the Red Sea.

That put them in the desert portion of what today we call the Sinai peninsula. In that desert, there are two main seasons. There is the dry season and the very dry season. Surprisingly, there are also times of the year when it can get quite cold at night but, not so surprisingly, there also are times when it can get very hot during the day.

We don’t know the time of year it was, but we do know in these verses that the Israelites were thirsty.

That is not surprising. According to Exodus, there were several hundred thousand of them, each needing water. And they had no water and no immediate prospects of finding any.

Even in good conditions, a human can only live about four days without hydration. If the temperatures are hot, that period might shrink to one or two days at most.

The Israelites might have been in life-or-death situation. Whether or not that is true, we do that a wail went up from them to Moses, “Are you trying to kill us?”

And, in my words, “Where is God?”

Or, as the verses say, “Is the Lord with us?”

The quick answer is that God was with them. In fact, God was going to lead them to water and quench their thirst.

Just so, I think God is with us now, that God is with all people affected in the outbreak of this evil and that God will see us through these times.

My second question was, “What, then, are we to do?”

This question came from a number of places in the Bible that describe what God or God-in-Jesus did in response to evil and human suffering, as well as our readings from the Sermon on the Mount and hundreds of other verses that describe how God’s people are to live.

You might recall talking in past weeks that we are called to act like Jesus, who also calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

One instance that tells of God’s actions in hard times is described in Isaiah 42 as well as the verses surrounding that entire chapter.

Those chapters all combine to tell us about a great Second Exodus, one of God leading the Hebrews out of exile in Babylon and bringing them back to the Promised Land.

In these particular verses, God talks of one who will be sent in the future to take on human suffering and deliver divine justice.

God spoke and said in part,

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
   he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
   or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
   and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
   he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
   until he has established justice in the earth;
   and the coastlands wait for his teaching.”

His servant, God said, would not break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick but would faithfully bring forth justice.

And make no mistake, this virus is evil and divine justice needs to address it.

That points to my tentative answer for what we are called to do. Remember, the my tentative answer to the first question was God is with us. My tentative answer to this second questions is that God is in the healing, God is working against virus to bring forth life. And, we are called to join our Creator in that great work.

Part of my tentative answer also comes Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:2-7.

John the Baptist has been imprisoned. He was wondering who Jesus was. Was he the One whom God promised to send? Was this man from Nazareth the Messiah?

So, John sent some of his disciples to find Jesus and ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’

In response, Jesus described his work on earth,

“‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.'”

Again, God is where the and wherever healing is occurring or relief to be found.

A corollary to that is that we are to join God in that great battle with this virus.

But still, I wanted to know what others were thinking. So I checked out some websites. Not surprisingly, there are a variety of reactions to the coronavirus within the world of Christendom.

I first went to the website of John Piper. He is a noted evangelical preacher, author and thinker.

He gave what seemed to me to be a rather classical explanation of how some people understand God to be working in these situations.

In short, he said that God could have stopped this, but in God’s providence and wisdom, God did not stop this. He concluded that whatever else we might say about this, it is a time to repent and turn back to God. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-we-make-sense-of-the-coronavirus

This seems to me to be incomplete, but there you have it.

I moved on an quickly found the preacher seemed to get the most publicity for his views about the coronavirus. I will not mention his name. However, he claimed the virus is God’s angel of death sent to destroy LGBTQs and other sinners. Well, may his kind decrease and decrease quickly. https://www.advocate.com/religion/2020/1/29/god-sent-coronavirus-destroy-lgbtq-people-says-trump-okd-preacher

One more prevalent opinion was given on a few different sites. There were some differences on what God was up to but these sites agreed that this is a chance to call non-believers to belief, in other words, a chance to evangelize. https://www.christianpost.com/voices/the-coronavirus-and-evangelism.html

And then there were those who said that the virus is part of the trials and tribulations of the end times. Their point was that the apocalypse is near. https://www.thetrumpet.com/21859-the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-the-bibles-prophesied-disease-pandemics

By my reading, all of these theories seem to tell us that God caused the coronavirus for a particular reason. God had a plan in mind, they might say.

That might be true. Maybe.

I look to other places in the Bible, though, that tell me evil happens and that God is:

with those who hurt and suffer,

with those who are lonely and despairing,

with those who are ill and disabled,

with those who sore and beaten down,

with those who need freedom and liberation.

Just so, God was with the Hebrews in the wilderness.

God told Moses to go ahead and he would be there at Mt. Horeb and that there would be water in the rocks.

In other words, God was there to give drink to the thirsty.

Later, when John wanted to know if he was a Messiah, Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, and I have come to judge all and punish the guilty.”

Instead, in essence, he said, “I am he whom God has sent. I am the one who will not break a bruised reed. I am the one who will not quench a dimly burning wick. I have come to be with those who suffer. I have come to hold their hand; to heal their ills; to lift their oppressions; to grant them new life; and, even to raise the dead.

So, friends, I don’t think God sent the coronavirus to achieve a particular purpose or carry out some kind of plan. Instead, disease seems to be part of the evil of nature that sometimes breaks out.

I do think, however that we see God-in-Jesus at work:

wherever someone is ill or dying;

wherever someone is searching for a cure;

wherever someone is seeking to develop a test to detect the illness;

wherever a healthcare worker lifts a spoon to feed someone who is ill;

wherever a pastor, friend or family member speaks a good word to someone fearful or someone afflicted; or

wherever a local or national official speaks to bring truth, calm and direction.

I believe that Jesus is doing what he has always done, seeking to:

heal the afflicted;

lift people’s burdens;

soothe their fears;

calm their souls;

give them direction in life; and

offer them life and even life abundant.

So, as we go forth today,

let us go forth to live and serve as did our Lord,

let us forth to seek to bring forth life,

let us go forth to love to our neighbor,

to bring hope there is despair, and

kindness where there is sorrow.

We want for our Lord to live through us.

So, my answers to those issues of where God might be and what God might be doing are: that God is with us and seeking to bring about good.

And, we need to join God in seeking that good.

But, let us remember something two other things, as well.

I came across article this week about Martin Luther, who lived during a recurrence of the Black Plague. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/january-web-only/martin-luther-coronavirus-wuhan-chinese-new-year-christians.html

It told of how Luther was asked how Christians should respond and that he wrote a relatively long response to the question. It then described his response.

First, Luther challenged Christians to see opportunities to tend to the sick as tending to Christ himself (Matt. 25:41–46).

We have covered that.

Second, Luther also stressed that Christians needed to take care of themselves.

So, take this seriously. It is a killer. Take care of yourselves.

Luther made it clear that God gives humans a tendency toward self-protection and trusts that they will take care of their bodies (Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:21–26).

“All of us,” he wrote, “have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body.”

He also defended public health measures such as quarantines and seeking medical attention when available.

Each of us has ample information and amply opportunity to take care of ourselves and not take this virus lightly.

We do need to remember, though, that even as we take care of ourselves, there are times we can help others and be useful to each other, at least in some small way.

Finally, we can also remember from our study on prayer that we are called to pray.

So, let us pray,

pray for an end to the virus,

pray for a vaccine to arrive,

pray for test kits,

pray for health to be widespread and robust,

pray for grace to prevail,

pray for those who have died,

pray for those who love them,

pray for those who are ill,

pray for the caregivers,

pray for local, state and national officials trying to cope with this virus,

and pray to in all things to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world,

always trusting in God and God’s good will toward humankind.

Amen.

A [Rare] Act of Courage

Acts of political courage, and especially political courage borne of religious faith, have always been scarce in Washington, D.C.

We are fortunate to have a rare sighting of such courage yesterday when Senator Mitt Romney announced his conclusion that President Trump was guilty of abuse of power. This is a video of his Senate speech.

Of course, one can never know what prompts another person to act in a certain way. But I believe Romney when he says that his decision was impelled by his faith.

He said, “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial judgment. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am.”

After laying the foundation for his vote, he stated the question and his conclusion, “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.”

What prompts me to think that his vote was based on his oath before God and not other matters is that there is no upside for him in voting to convict. However, there is a decided downside.

And, the downside backlash he will have to endure will have nothing to do with faith or truth but everything to do with the intense partisanship which infects American politics.

Thus, he will face the scorn of fellow senators for not voting “with the team.”

Many of his constituents will turn against him.

MAGA diehards will do their best to make his life miserable.

Conservative talks show hosts will do the same.

And President Trump and his family will lead the chorus.

Indeed, the piling began immediately and has only intensified.

I admire his action, however, and wonder if it is not actions like this that Jesus was referring to in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “ ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ ” Matthew 5:11-12, NRSV.

The rest of us should do so well in giving our main loyalty to God and not to “the team.”

The Walking Dead. . . and Divided

Earlier today, the United Methodist Judicial Council upheld several parts of the controversial “traditional” plan adopted at their conference in February 2019.

It also struck down several other parts of the plan, but that is likely only to be a road bump on the way to a final church split.

It is widely expected that the final rupture (that’s almost a pun) will come next year, when denominational representatives meet in a regularly-scheduled general conference.

When last rites finally are pronounced over the denomination, it is likely that scores, if not hundreds or thousands, of progressive and moderate churches will leave to form a new denomination.

Between now and then, leaders of the respective factions—progressive, moderate and conservative—will meet internally to plan their strategy. Following that, it is likely that a set of leaders representing each faction will meet to see if they can reach an amicable divorce, which is a polite way of saying “agree upon a church schism.”

A church schism, or split, is not an unusual path in either Protestantism or Methodism, notwithstanding Jesus’ great prayer in the John’s gospel that the church be unified. As he says in John 17:11, “Holy Father, protect them. . . so that they may be one as we are one.”

Well, so much for spiritual integrity, even though all sides of the Methodist mess claim that scripture is on their side.

In truth, though, the Christian church has never been “one.” Instead, it has always been a lively, messy, prickly, argumentative conglomerate of people and churches with largely similar beliefs on major issues, who will then divide like angry amoebas over lesser matters.

For example, most Christians throughout history would agree that Jesus is Lord. However, Christians have killed each other over other issues, such as whether infant baptism is scripturally sound or whether Jesus’ blood and body is physically present in the communion elements.

Today’s dividing issue is LGBTQ equality. Thus, if you believe a man can love a man or a woman can love a woman, and that God is okay with that and maybe even celebrates it, well, many Christians believe you to be a heretic, damn you!

And, a good number are willing to persecute you or discriminate against you for that belief (see “evangelical” in your dictionary).

Similar to the global church, United Methodists seem to agree that Jesus is Lord, but they break down bigly over LGBTQ issues, which even the most fervent, fire-breathing conservative agrees is mentioned or alluded to in only a handful of the Bible’s over 31,000 verses.

Of course, the American Methodist church has split over civil rights issues before. Prior to the Civil War, it divided into northern and southern churches over the issue of slavery, and did not reunite until 1939.

Meanwhile, today’s conservatives pooh-pooh any suggestion that they are making the same mistake as their southern forebears, who insisted that some people are entitled to more civil rights than others.

That is hard to maintain when they are, indeed, insisting that some people are entitled to more civil rights than others, but there you go. . .

In their defense, humans have never been much for consistency, but are quite adept at denial.

Unfortunately, the handwriting seems to be on the wall for people who love the United Methodist church and had some hope that the church would stay united despite differences. They will need to find grace in their grief as the denomination hurdles toward division and death.

Fortunately, irrespective of our views on these issues, we can learn from the resurrection verses in Matthew: Jesus is alive and going ahead of us.

Our task is to follow him faithfully and prayerfully as best we can, even in hard and fractious times.

Burning Christians Illuminate Administration’s Immorality

Donald Trump can end his “Rip Families Apart” policy by calling his Attorney General and ordering him to stop.

There are at least two reasons he will not do this.

First, he likes the results. Dislike, if not hatred, of “other” people, especially those of a different skin color, seem to be embedded deep within his bones.

Second, he finds the children and their parents useful to him in a devilish sort of way. They are living and breathing human bargaining chips he can use both in his ongoing War Against Immigration and his drive to fund the border wall.

Jesus, while taking a child into his arms, once said, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

Unfortunately, instead of receiving children in any way remotely resembling Jesus’ desire, or in any other humane and moral manner, our nation’s leadership has embarked on another course.

They receive children in the name of a man who would do them harm and leave them at his mercy.

The result is that Trump has chosen to show “zero tolerance” to immigrant families appearing at the border even to present legitimate claims of asylum.

This means that our country rejects valid asylum claims that it has heretofore accepted. It also means that families are separated, with parents being jailed for subsequent prosecution and children being imprisoned for indefinite periods of time.

The latter results in our government taking children into custody and stashing them in an abandoned and now overcrowded Walmart facility located deep in South Texas.

While this facility is now licensed by the state of Texas, it is only approved to hold about 1100 people. Unfortunately, it now houses almost 1500 children ranging in age from 10-17. In addition, at least thirteen citations have been presented against the facility for inadequate conditions or services.

Meanwhile, as they move into federal jails and detention centers, these children and their parents join DACA recipients in an obscenely unjust pocket of Trump-imposed hell– pawns in his unholy, immoral fight against immigration.

Stunningly, Trump repeatedly brays out the lie that his “Rip Families Apart” policy actually is caused by a pre-existing law passed by Democrats, and that he can do nothing about it until the law is changed.

Rubbish. It is Trump’s policy designed to hurt people.

As such, these families not only are they bargaining chips but are also people the Orange One hurts in the hope that their misery will deter others from seeking asylum.

Shockingly, Attorney General Sessions looks on all of this and claims that it is part of God’s plan designed to bring law and order to the United States.

He even cites verses from Romans 13 to support his contention. In those verses, the Apostle Paul exhorts early Christians to submit peacefully to taxes imposed by the Roman Emperor Nero.

It is odd that Sessions uses this verses. However, he is likely unaware that some of the same Christians whom Paul counseled to honor the Roman government were destined to later become human torches illuminating the Roman night. They had been publicly dipped into tar and set ablaze pursuant to governmental policies set by Nero to discourage the practice of Christianity.

So much for that government’s “law and order” and lack of morality.

We are left to fight against those of our own.

Take It Back, God, Take It Back!

Wayne La Pierre, of NRA fame, and our sitting president are among those claiming that God bestows upon all people the right to own firearms. Even the simplest of web searches will reveal scores of Christians making the same argument.

Of course, it is relatively easy to make absurd claims and claim Biblical support. Indeed, over the years many have claimed that the Bible authorizes misogyny, mass slaughter, genocide, polygamy, slavery, public stoning for certain offenses (Kids, careful what you say to your parents!) and any number of other noxious acts.

Let us not stretch the absurdity to include biblical authorization of firearms. It is not there.

It is likely, however, that people such as Mr. La Pierre have an ulterior motive for their claim—that there is a “divine” law that will override any attempt to regulate the purchase or possession of certain weapons. After all goes the reasoning, if God is for it then who can be against it?

Nonetheless, the present right for Americans to possess firearms is controlled not by the Bible, but by the Supreme Court decision in Washington, D.C. vs. Heller, a 2008 case.

The 5-4 majority in that case created constitutional right under the Second Amendment for citizens to own firearms for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense and hunting.

The opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, also noted that the “right” is not unlimited and that it is not a right for a person to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for any purpose whatsoever.

In other words, he noted that this “right” can be regulated.

That is the fight we are having—whether additional regulations should be adopted to restrict the sale or possession of certain weapons.

Let’s not drag God into the American carnage that is related to firearms.

I suspect that God is appalled enough already.

 

America’s Sacrificial Lambs: Our Children

Child sacrifices are one of the more gruesome practices of humankind. Genesis 22 describes a chilling scene of one that almost happened.

God tells Abraham to sacrifice his young son, Isaac. Abraham dutifully begins to obey, no questions asked and no emotion shown.

Instead, he soon packs what is needed for the task and leaves for Mt. Moriah with Isaac and two servants. It was there that Isaac would die.

When they arrive, Abraham tells the servants to wait while he and his son find a place to “worship.” He and Isaac then leave for a short hike to find God’s preferred site. Ironically, Abraham gives Isaac the wood to carry while he takes the knife and “fire.”

When they arrive at the appointed site, Abraham builds an altar, puts wood on it, binds Isaac and places him the wood. He then lifts his knife to kill him, to sacrifice his son on altar to God.

There is no indication what Isaac and Abraham were thinking and feeling as the events unfolded. Instead, it played out rather matter-of-factly—like another day, another sacrifice to make. Ho-hum.

So it seems to go in our country. Another day, another sacrifice to make. Or like yesterday, seventeen sacrifices.

Child sacrifice was common in ancient cultures. Today, we think of it as a primitive, barbaric act, something too horrific to imagine.

Unfortunately, we routinely do it as a culture. We are the primitives. We are the barbarians. We are the ones who sacrifice our children. We are the ones with blood on our hands.

We sacrifice them on altars made not of wood but of political power and zealotry. Our gods are the NRA and a particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

God stayed the hand of Abraham that day, but our country does not seem to have the ability to take any meaningful steps to stay the hands of mass murderers, even in our public schools.

Admittedly, there are laws against murder and there are some restrictions on the sale of firearms.

But, there have been twenty-five fatal school shootings since Columbine. There have been over 150 mass shootings (defined as shootings where four or more have been killed by a lone shooter) since Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower on August 1, 1966 to gun down twenty-five people.

In the last twenty-four hours, the governor of Florida, attorney general of the United States and president of the United States have made statements deploring the act and vowing to end school shootings.

But, the fact is that our governments have done . . . nothing.

And, our body politic has done . . . nothing.

And, more die.

Christians believe that sin is endemic to human beings. Our task as our culture is to seek ways to curb this particular manifestation of sin.

Unfortunately, that requires a national effort and a political effort that includes both political courage and citizen revolt against these murders. To date, all these elements have been missing.

If you are one who cares, then by all means pray for the victims, witnesses and their families. Pray for the law enforcement officers and other first responders who had to see and wade through the carnage. Pray for doctors, nurses and health care personnel who cared for those who were brought in for treatment. Pray for the shooter and his family.

Then, phone, write or email your legislators at all levels of government. Give money to candidates who will change the status quo. Write letters to the editor. Rage on social media. Do anything you can to reduce the carnage.