Headlines from First Thoughts

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Knoxville Tragedy at Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church

The last place anyone expected a lone gunman to destroy the lives of innocent people was Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Rev. Chris Buice has been a voice of peace, unity, and harmony throughout his ministry in East Tennessee. He has led reconciliation movements, and First Baptst has followed his lead through the End Violence initiatives in Knox County.

The forces of evil are random enough to pick the good people and congregations who care about peace to try to silence the voices of people like Chris Buice and the good people of TVUUC. But today is not a day to be quiet. Instead, it’s a day to be reminded that the forces of evil do not determine our perspective on the present. The cross determines our present, and through the power of the cross, we can see that God has already intervened in this tragedy; and the forces of evil lost again.

As Christians we believe that God intervened in the worst of the world’s darkness. Even worse than the actions of Jim Adkisson was the heinous world of the first century when God came through Jesus. In Romans 8:26-29, Paul reminds us that God began a long process of stopping evil in its tracks through his suffering on the cross. God entered a world through Jesus’ death to engage in a love that conquers all forces of darkness. Through the cross, Jesus suffered with the pain of this world that continues to this day.

This is not a love limited to the first century; God’s love suffers with us today. God’s love through the cross shows us that God suffered with the victims of this terrible tragedy. Through the pain on the cross, God demonstrated that he suffered with Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger when they died.

God not only suffers with the world; but through the cross, God has been working continually to redeem the world. When God could have given up on this world, he sent Jesus to work beside us to have help, hope, and healing in the midst of the darkness. Jesus’ presence was felt today. When evil interrupted a children’s musical, three people jumped on Jim Adkisson and prevented the violence from becoming worse.

Imagine what the world would be like without a place like a church to pray. Imagine a world without a house of prayer for all the nations. Our greatest testimony will be when we return to church on Wednesday night and Sunday morning and unite as a common people of faith to say we have heard the words of Jesus in the midst of the storm: “Peace, be still,” and we will not be afraid.

For God is still working. God does not necessarily just work everything out. But God does work with all things, even the worst things imaginable. The forces of evil cannot stop the voices of Chris Buice and this fine church. Our voices grow even stronger as we engage as salt, light, and peace in a difficult storm. Our voices grow as we offer prayers for the McKendry and Adkisson families. Our unity increases as we pray for children who witnessed this tragedy, as we comfort and pray for hearling for the other victims, as we offer counseling to loved ones, and as we look this church in the eye and say, “We are working with you and God for the good of those who love God to those who are the called according to his purpose.” God’s work is not random. God’s work has a purpose of love that still triumphs over the worst of the forces of evil.


Anonymous said...

The people I have spoken to from the UU church are heartbroken. . .
This is a time that we can all come together as a community and share Christ's love with those who are hurting.
Pray for the children
God bless!

Anonymous said...

I was sad to learn of the shootings while in NM on vacation. What a clear opportunity to minister to the members UUC. Our son attends high school with a member of the UUC. Please pray for her(Molly)and her family. I do not know the condition of Molly and her family's souls. I am praying and hopeful that our son will have the opportunity to share his faith with Molly and other classmates through his behavior and words.

Suzanne Reed said...

My prayer for the transformation of this tragedy is that it will become something much bigger and greater and filled with love of each other that will dispel the darkness and hatred that filled Jim Adkisson. I, for one, really appreciate your asking for us to pay attention to those amongst us who "keep to themselves", because they may be issuing a silent, desperate plea through their silence.

Thank you for the wisdom and comfort you share through your ministry. I'm subscribing to your blog as of today.

May God bless and keep you.


Nathan said...

Thank you pastor. I'm a Unitarian from another state, but all of us are shocked and pained by the horrible events. Some of us have assumed that some might imply that the UU's somehow deserved this violence by not accepting traditional theology. Your words remind and reassure us that true faith calls us to love the holy and one another despite the differences between us. Thank you for showing the love and compassion Jesus lived and died for. Blessings to you and your congregation.

Don Wolf said...

Thank you pastor. It is a comfort to hear words of unity, caring and comfort. I'm a UU who live on the other side of the country from Knoxville, but this has affected me deeply.

Your message was especially welcome, as I had just come from reading a set of comments on another site that included, "Jesus is the ONLY way and the Unitarian Church is a satanic cult. That unitarian church, in particular, promoted homosexual rights and founded a chapter of the ACLU. Those two people killed are both in Hell. (http://scaredmonkeys.com/2008/07/28/gun-fire-at-the-tennessee-valley-unitarian-universalist-church-in-knoxville-tn-2-killed).

Even if someone believes this, as this writer obviously does, I would prefer to think now should be a time of caring for the families and communities of the victims, not reminding them that their loved ones are in hell.

Which makes me even more appreciative of your words, and your heart. Blessings for you and your congregation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing that article. My other sister and I have worried so much about our sister, Linda Lee being struck dead so suddenly without being able to reconsider humanism. She was such a good and loving person. I think she spent her life searching for religious truth. She spent a lot of time researching Doestoevsky, who dedicated his life to the same search. Her other sister and I have been praying that God sent one of his angels to her.

Her involvement in the Unitarian fellowship worried us so much.

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