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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

By now I doubt there is a person anywhere who has not heard of the horrific killings that took place at Emmanuel AME church last evening (Wednesday night). I believe not only is Charleston shaken to its very core, but all Christians upon hearing this news are realizing that the battle between good and evil continues to rage. My heart has been heavy all day long as I have contemplated and prayed about what this means for persons of faith who come to their places of worship to receive hope, strength, peace and safety, and now must worry if this could happen again. My heart grieves for our brothers and sisters in Christ who lost their lives while in their own sanctuary. My heart grieves for the congregation who shall bury nine of their members, including their pastor who was a graduate of my own seminary.

In the days ahead Charleston will rally around Emmanuel and add our shock and grief to theirs. In the days ahead, Christians will lift in prayer those who lost their lives as well as their family and friends who wonder how can this happen? We too may be wondering the same thing.

This Sunday at 10:00 AM churches throughout the Charleston area will ring their church bells as a sign of community unity and Christian brotherhood. The bells will ring proclaiming the promise and truth of a good and gracious God who is present with us even as evil and violence do their best to create in us doubt and despair.

Yet we can do more than ring church bells on Sunday. We can intentionally pray for those who are now with God. We can pray for those who will gather in worship to experience the loss of their shepherd and the family and friends who were there the week before. And we can pray that the kind of evil, illness, insanity and disrespect that continues to divide God’s people (black, white, other) will be overcome and defeated by those who know the love of God made known in His son Jesus Christ.

“Emmanuel” means “God is with us.” As terrible as the acts were against innocent people on Wednesday night, I know God was present. God is with us always and He will continue to give us the strength we need to help those who are hurting and to share the love of God we all know through Christ our Lord.

As you offer your prayers in the days ahead, please lift before God all who hurt and need God’s compassionate and healing touch.

Your humble servant in Christ,

Pastor Butler +

Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p76)