According to USAToday, the churches in Newtown, CT, were packed out on Friday night, people filling the pews and spilling out into the streets.
It’s enough to make any pastor green with envy.
Why did all these people suddenly appear in the churches? According to one worshiper, they were seeking “the comfort of the families and the peace that comes over your soul when you’re in the midst of a difficult situation."
And the people in Newtown are certainly in the midst of a difficult situation. Twenty of their children are dead, together with six teachers and one more member of the community – not to mention the man who killed them all and then himself.
But why do people come to church at such times? In such numbers?
They don’t know what else to do. Suddenly faced with the fragility of life and the reality of evil, overwhelmed with unimaginable sorrow, confusion, and uncertainty, and eager to comfort and be comforted, the people of Newtown came to church, believing that this was the most sensible thing to do.
They could have poured into the local bars and drunk themselves into a stupor.
They could have just stayed at home and watched some TV or played some video games, just to get their minds off their troubles.
But they went to church, where they prayed, sang softly, lit candles, heard comforting words, hugged one another with tears, and struggled to regain a sense of hope and a feeling of wellbeing.
Who supposes that they came to watch a well-rehearsed praise band go through their choreographed routine? Or to hear a glib and folksy preacher rattle off a series of anecdotes and pithy sayings?
They came because suddenly they were aware of, if not a hole in their souls, at least a terrible bruise there, a bruise occasioned by unspeakable horror and irreplaceable loss, as well as a sense of the precariousness and preciousness of life.
It is inherent in the Gospel to invoke such feelings in those who hear it truly. The Gospel explains that our miseries and fears – secret or known – are the consequence of evil, and that this evil dwells within our very souls. The Gospel tells the tragic story of the only true Innocent, Who submitted Himself to unspeakable brutality and death in order to stir us out of our torpor and awaken us to the prospects of new and eternal life. The Gospel tells us that a new day has begun, and a greater new day is coming, and it offers all who hear it the promise that their sorrows and fears and disappointments may be overcome and set aside, and that a new hope of glory and peace and joy is ready to hand.
The Gospel demands sorrow and weeping for the evil within us. But it calls all who believe to come together in the Light of Jesus’ love, where they may find comfort and give comfort, worship with tears and hope, and see through the veil of this sad world into the eternal bliss of an unshakable Kingdom.
I cannot help but believe that, if more Christians proclaimed this Good News in the normal course of their everyday lives, and if more pastors preached it faithfully, week after week, God would be pleased, as in the great revivals of the past, to pack out His churches once more.
Pray for the people of Newtown, CT, that they may know the comfort and presence of the Lord of glory, and may rest in the safety and hope of His eternal grace and truth.
And pray for yourself and your church. God has not called us to entertain the world, but to save it.
And saving the world is a sorrowful but joyous business.
A conversation starter: “Given that there is so much evil in the world, and that it can suddenly cause so much sadness and destruction, why are we as Christians so reticent when it comes to sharing the Good News of the Kingdom of God?”
T. M. Moore, Principal