Perhaps the strongest message of the Gospel, aside from the saving grace of our faith in Jesus Christ, is the way it brings to mind the stories and times of those who have preceded us in this faith quest. Their stories are not unlike our own. Their times are oddly similar to our own. Their quest to make sense out of living is very much like our own. In that spirit I offer that this time of year brings me many reminders of times in my own quest and struggle to be human. I was just 15 years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. That event caused my young mind to wonder if there was anything good left in the world. Then, just five years later, two men I had grown to admire were taken from us in the same manner. When Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed it seemed as if the world had once again gone mad. I was older then and able to understand the circumstances in a broader sense. Yet they still made no sense to me at all. Across the years we have witnessed other senseless acts of violence. Those of us who are supposed to bring healing and hope in these times struggle to find the hand of God in these tragedies. My short answer is that God is as perplexed and saddened as we are. And I hold to a God who loves us in spite of all the evil we allow among and in ourselves.
And it happens again. In a small school far away 26 lives are taken in a matter of minutes. In an instant it feels like we are all part of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our faith invites us through Scripture and experience to understand that, in fact, we are part of a larger whole, a community that holds the same hopes and dreams that our ancestors held. I remember with great joy the words of President Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." Is it time to ask ourselves just what we can do for God? How can we turn our remembering into a legacy of changing, to the end that future memories would include a faithful response that built a better world for our children and grandchildren? If you have not already done so, I invite you to visit a website, sandyhookpromise.org. Add your name to the thousands who have joined in the promise that this time we will not forget. This time we will bring something good out of all the tragedy and pain.
So I close remembering words spoken by the man we honor this holiday weekend. Words brought to my memory by a valued friend in faith.
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Pastor Pete Nelson of Carson Valley United Methodist Church is a member of Carson Valley Ministers' Association.