Nashville is 825 miles from Minocqua, but it may as well be right next door. Sadly, school shootings have become so common that they’re just part of another day’s news. But this one feels real close, for a number of reasons, summarized in two sentences: The Nashville shooting took place at a small, private Christian school with an enrollment of less than 200 students up to 6th grade. The alleged shooter was allegedly caught up in the cyclone of confusion caused by the “identity” discussion so prevalent in our culture, a topic about which God’s Word is exceedingly clear from the beginning: “Male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27b)
Our school – Trinity Lutheran School – is a small, private Christian school with far fewer than 200 students from PreK3-8th grade. Every one of our students is precious: to their parents, to us, to God. Like other schools, we’ve increased security measures. It is also our privilege (and our reason for existence!) to proclaim the unchanging truths of God’s Word for life here and life forever with the Lord. Some of these truths are anathema to a sinful, Satan-impacted world. But there are no compromises to be made. No amount of external polling, no amount of pressure from society ought to change what God declares in his Word.
But when evil wants to find a way in, it won’t let up. We live in a broken world.
The incident in Nashville reminds me of a day I’ll never forget. Nine years ago this May, while living in Phoenix, a shooting took place near our home. Less than a mile from where we lived, a murder-suicide took place in front of a house at mid-day. A 15 year old boy shot and killed his 16 year old ex-girlfriend, then turned the gun on himself.
I knew about it before it even made the local news because I had a child who attended the same public high school (with 2500 students) that the deceased had attended. Word travels quickly in the era of digital, social media.
There were witnesses, but before anything could be done to triage or patch the wounds, it was determined to be too late.
But much spiritual and emotional triage work remained, beginning in my own home. My children didn’t know these two personally, but they knew many who did. And among that peer set (and their parents) there was considerable upset.
There were so many questions. Why? How? Didn’t anyone know? Couldn’t anyone have done anything to stop this? So many fears. So much anger over the unfairness to the female victim. Hatred directed toward the shooter. Many vented openly in conversations and through social media. Others quietly brooded over questions that have no answers and allow for no closure. Some coped by attending vigils and raising funds. Others sought guidance from counselors and teachers and clergy.
The best “coping mechanism?” It’s a paraphrase of Jesus’ encouragement to his disciples, “Watch and pray.” Here, “Patch and pray.” Stop the spiritual and emotional bleeding with the comfort of God’s Word. Healing will not be instantaneous. Unseen wounds and scars will remain. But faith finds strength and comfort and purpose and healing only in the loving arms of Jesus. Patch and pray, and continue to apply God’s Word. Point people to what God has done for them in Holy Baptism. Point them to the endless personal promises God makes in his Word.
This doesn’t sound like much. In fact, it’s all that can be done at such a time. But it’s all that needs to be done. And it must be done, for the sake of precious souls who are hurting, and need healing.
May I offer one more suggestion at times of crisis like this? Pause. In the wake of mass violence, a common pattern is emerging among tech-literate, socially-connected Christians. Rather than hearing the news and turning to God, we turn first to social media. News agencies can report details. But too often, there’s a part of us (collectively speaking) that actually looks to revel in the partisan divide. Even without looking we know the various angles that will be played out (e.g., gun control, liberal politics, conservative politics, etc.) and that gets our blood boiling.
Just pause. Stop, even. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Do what you can to help others. Point them to Jesus and the certain, real hope we have in him.
King David knew this well, and we find comfort in his words:
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5-8 EHV))
God keep you safe in his care,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand