One year ago today...
It was a Sunday morning, and I was at church getting ready for Sunday services when I heard the news that something terrible had happened in my then-home city of Orlando.
With my heart sinking, I turned on the television in my office and learned to my horror that 49 people had been massacred early that morning in the Pulse nightclub--a club that had been founded as a "safe place" for the Orlando LGBTQ community to gather.
It became evident very quickly that what happened was a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, perpetrated by a disturbed individual---an individual who had also been twisted and poisoned by religious extremism.
I remember praying for peace and unity that Sunday in front of my congregation. I prayed defiantly for peace and unity, but deep inside I feared that things would take a different turn.
My hope was that the Pulse nightclub tragedy would be a wake-up call to our country. I prayed that we would put aside all of the ways that we are divided, and focus instead on the things that bring us together---faith, hope and most of all love.
I prayed that the Christian community would respond with grace.
I recorded a sermon video shortly after the Pulse nightclub tragedy. You can watch it here if you like:
As I sit here now reflecting on what happened a year ago today, I still pray defiantly for peace and unity even though sometimes it seems that both are still so far out of our reach.
But I see so much to be hopeful for within the Christian community.
Despite our disagreements over LGBTQ issues, most of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus acted with grace and love after the tragedy at Pulse, and since then it feels as though the great rifts that divided us seem to have narrowed.
A year ago, one large, conservative, evangelical church in Orlando offered to families of the Pulse victims to host and cover the funeral expenses for their loved ones.
Pastors from all across the theological spectrum came together to provide counseling, and pastoral care to not only the victims' families, and the city of Orlando, but also to the wider LGBTQ community.
There were so many incredible examples of loving, grace-filled Christian responses--and I know it helped to heal a lot of wounds, and bring hope to a hurting community.
So, to my sisters and brothers, fellow followers of Jesus---I know that many of us have deep disagreements about many of the hot button issues that so often dominate our conversations with one another. But I know that there is so much more that unites us, as opposed to what divides us.
And what unites us more than all else is the never-ending, amazing, undeserved, overwhelming grace and love of God through Jesus Christ, who loved all of us to the end, and who never leaves us or forsakes us.