El Segundo United Methodist Church

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"Come to the Water"
Pastor Lee's Sermon Podcasts

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Dear Friends,

All of us were stunned by the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1.  There are no answers for why this unthinkable event happened.  No apparent motives or logical explanations have emerged from the ensuing investigation.  It was a senseless, tragic incident. Sadly, it was not the first such incident, and the likelihood is that it will not be the last.

In the wake of this shooting, candlelight vigils and prayer services were held, including one at our own church, and these brought us together in sorrow.  Such events were and are a blessing, but the members of the Palos Verdes Interfaith Clergy Group were moved to do more.  They worked together to craft an interfaith response that was then dispersed to other clergy in the South Bay and submitted to several local newspapers.  Ultimately it was published on October 4 in both the Beach Reporter and a Palos Verdes paper. 

Thirty-nine South Bay Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, including myself, signed this response, and I’d like to share it with you.

“The Book of Proverbs teaches that ‘in every human soul is the light of God’ (Proverbs 20:27).  Representing diverse faith traditions, we, members of the clergy across the South Bay, stand together in solidarity and sorrow, recognizing the massacre in Las Vegas was, and continues to be, an affront to God and to all of humankind.  This deplorable act extinguished the bright lights of 58 innocent  souls (to date) and dimmed the lights of the almost 600 who were injured, the thousand who bore witness to the horror and the thousands more who knew and loved the victims.  Indeed, the light of God was dimmed in our nation.

 “This week, we mourn.  We remain shocked and appalled as we struggle to find the appropriate words of comfort that will help our communities heal, and the appropriate words of outrage that speak to yet another senseless and inexplicable act of gun violence.  While our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their families, we know that without action, thoughts and prayers mean little.  When our initial period of mourning comes to an end, we must turn our mourning into action.

 “We in the Jewish community are reminded of what God told Moses to tell the Israelite people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:  ‘Justice, Justice shall you pursue.’ (Deuteronomy 16:18)

 “We in the Christian community are reminded of human suffering because as Paul wrote in Corinthians (12:36):  ‘If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.’

 “We in the Muslim community learn how to respond to evil from Gods’ Divine wisdom in the Qur’an: ‘Evil and goodness are not the same, repeal evil with what is better (i.e. love and beauty) until the one who is like your worst enemy becomes like your best friend.’ Qu’ran (41:34)

 “And, as is taught in the Qu’ran (5:23) and in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a), ‘anyone who kills an innocent person, it is as if he killed the entire humanity; conversely, if anyone saves a life, it is as if he saved the entire humanity.’

 “As clergy, it is vital for us to be pursuers of justice, peacemakers, healers of suffering and friends to those in need. We bring healing and hope to communities that are saddened, outraged, and suffering.

 “We commit, therefore, to bring our communities together to learn from one another’s diverse perspectives and find common ground.  Any attempt to discuss policy or legislation will not undo the painful damage that has been done.  However, that should not prevent us from having meaningful conversations with friends and neighbors who hold diverse opinions, about how to make our world safer, more peaceful.

 “In a time when our country is divided in so many ways, we believe our role as clergy is twofold:  We must amplify the prophetic voice and bring the weight of our traditions to bear on issues that affect human lives; and we must amplify the pastoral role in bringing healing and wholeness to fractured communities.

 “We are not policy makers.  We are moral leaders who yearn to use our pulpits and our positions to discuss, debate and also to heal because as Rabbi Hillel famously taught, ‘If not now, when?’

 “Join us on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Palos Verdes Estates for a respectful, thoughtful discussion on issues related to gun violence. The time is now.

 “In every human soul is the light of God.  Today, we come together to bring a spark of light into the darkness.”

 I plan to attend the gathering on November 8 to take part in the discussion. If you would like to join me, let me know.  I’d be happy to carpool.  The address for St. Francis Episcopal is 2200 Via Rosa, Palos Verdes Estates, 90274. 

I don’t know where this discussion will lead, but if the only thing that happens is that we see one another’s faces and acknowledge our common fears and hopes, that will be a step toward ending the division and violence that threatens our communities and our world.  “In every human soul is the light of God.”  May our light shine.

Pastor Lee

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