Not Again! Sutherland Springs, TX...

#TexasChurchMassacre #NotAgain #EnoughIsEnough #Unity #UnityLakeHouston #ULH

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"Not again," is the deafening sound pounding away in my mind and heart. I feel sick, I want to scream, I want to punch a wall to divert my pain, and I question my choice to live in a country that is so violent beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life...I want to run, run far and away.

I first learned about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, yesterday, after an uplifting church board meeting on the back of an invigorating message on finding gratitude in our lives regardless of our circumstances. I quoted Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, and I made a point on how important his instructions were to the young church in Thessalonica who just barely heard the good news about the Christ potential within them and how they could bring heaven on earth within their lifetimes. 

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

How can I, after hearing the news about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, tell my congregation, or anyone else for that matter, to give thanks? How can I celebrate God Love within all things, ready to be explored in even the "darkest valley?" It seems very unlikely, if not impossible. It appears to be a task not worth a second thought. And yet, it is.

Giving thanks is not about ignoring what is going on around us, but it is our consistent effort to find those things that are worthy of our gratitude. It is through such effort when we learn to to see the world differently, more pliable to what is in God Promise, a never-ending love for all. With that love in mind we are able to recognize evil, which is a simple departure of God Love, when one no longer recognizes the underlying power that drives the universe. Love can neutralize evil without much of an effort because love is a true power as opposed to evil, which is manmade based on fears, hate, and disappointments. 

How to Cope?

But how do these words help us coping with the tragedy that came upon Sutherland Springs? It seems like a fruitless effort to convince those who suffer to shy away from experiencing their loss and grief. I would agree. While I am constantly looking for the Goodness in our lives, I cannot stand there and look someone in the eye and say, your suffering is Goodness. We must stop pretending that "God is Good, all the time" to serve the purpose of deflecting from our true feelings. Instead, we should embrace the reality that Goodness can inexplicably suck sometimes because that is just how we feel.

To give thanks in all circumstances is not about denying our pain over the tragedies that came upon us over the last few weeks. To give thanks in all circumstances is an invitation to learn to recognize Goodness in our lives so that these tragedies may no longer occur. I know, it sounds like an impossible task to embark on. You might think, "How can I change what is happening in the world?" I truly believe there is power in the invitation to "be the change that [we] wish to see in the world." If we want love, compassion, kindness, and peace for the world, we must learn to be those things in all circumstances in our own lives. It all starts with our own willingness to engage in the practices we like to see others be immersed. 

What Is There Left for Us to Do?

So, what does this all leave us with when thinking specifically about those who are suffering right now because of their losses in the small town of Sutherland Springs. Yes, we can pray and meditate, and I know that us Unity folks are quite happy to do that. But, is there anything else we can do? Is there any way we can alleviate the pain of those left behind? Is there anything else we can embark on in addition to our prayer and meditation practice?

Rather than giving you an answer, because I really do not have one right now myself. I encourage you to move into prayer and meditation, not to passively make the world a better place, but to actively bring forth the one thing you (and I) can do to change this trend of senseless violence. It's not enough to say a quick prayer for the victims and their families. It's not enough to hold the Sutherland Springs community in our hearts. It's not enough to sit in Silence, hoping that it all will go away. We must act! We must embrace the opportunity! We must engage in the world that we envision it to be.

(Wise) Words

Much of what I have written and processed is based upon my studies and experiences over many years. However, I recognize how empty my words may sound when considering the backdrop of such a massacre. We may find comfort in Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, and many other teachers and prophets...Yet, it is not they who are called to action. It is us. It is I.

I am at a threshold whether I am willing to continue to support my own misgivings towards those that I might not feel comfortable with or whether I am finally willing to accept Paul's teachings about "[giving] thanks in all circumstances," which is not just about myself but the greater good. 

I remind myself, that

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4

God is with me because God is me. God is Goodness and, therefore, I am Goodness. I must believe that in my core I am Goodness, ready to thrive without any distortions. That is what keeps me alive and focused on a world that may no longer feel the need to destroy other's lives in senseless acts. I hold that vision for all of us.

May our prayers go out to the Sutherland Springs community. As we feel their pain, we hold their faith and peace at heart. Whatever we are led to do and put into action, we give ourselves permission to do so. We know that our thoughts and prayers, while helpful, may not be enough, and we allow ourselves to explore what else we can do. We embrace the opportunity to become part of a different world...One that no one has to be afraid to step out into the community and enjoy themselves, worship, and be who they have always meant to be.

And so it is. Amen

Jean-Marie Schweizer, LUT