With Senior Pastor Ray Hylton out of town this week, he asked that I provide a pastoral response to the horrible occurrence which took place Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. – Rev. Amanda Golbek

Dear friends,

As I write this, I sit with my Bible open to Acts 1:6-11. It is the account of Jesus’ ascension. Today is what is known in the church calendar as the Feast of Ascension; it is the day we remember Christ’s final departure from Earth to join the heavenly father. The text speaks to the distance that we can at times feel between ourselves and God.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in our country, I have had moments of wondering where God is. I’ve questioned whether the chasm of evil, sin, and darkness, is too great for God to reach across. Fortunately, the resonance of scripture—written, it seems, for just such a time as this—grips me, drawing me back from despair.

The apostles’ final question to Christ was “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” In light of the shootings of the last ten days in Buffalo, NY, Laguna Beach, CA, and Uvalde, TX, I find myself asking the same question as the apostles: “Lord, is this the time? Is this the time that will finally be different? Is this the time when hardened hearts will be transformed? Is this the time when reaction will become meaningful action?”

Just like the apostles, we don’t know God’s entire plan. We can’t predict or understand God’s timeline.

While I sometimes feel that the pain, hurt, sin, and darkness of this world are winning, I am reminded that I follow a God who intimately knows the pain suffered by those whose lives have been upended by violence. I follow a God who doesn’t offer platitudes and empty words, but takes all the evil, sin, and pain upon himself for us through the action of the cross. I follow a God who takes my pain—our collective pain and suffering—seriously.

I also follow a God who suffered so that the horrors of this world would not have the final word in my life or in the lives of those around me. Amid this time of lament, sadness, grief, and anger, I am reminded that we who know God have been commissioned to give everything we have to continue the work of bringing about God’s kingdom on earth. In this time, let us take the pain of one another as seriously as God takes our pain. Let us, wrestle with our own inaction. Let us, move closer into community, working to crush the grip of sin and evil in tangible and meaningful ways.

The staff of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston know that the recent incidents of gun violence impact everyone differently. We are praying for everyone in our community. If you need someone to speak with, please reach out to one of the pastors. We know the last few weeks have been especially hard for parents, students, teachers, and people of color. We are here to support you.

Awaiting the fullness of the kingdom,

Rev. Amanda Golbek
FPCE Minister of Children and Youth