Extending Prayers and Condolences in Suffering and Grief

Eleven Jewish worshipers were mindlessly murdered in Pittsburg, last Saturday, October 26th, just as morning services were about to begin. Heavily armed forty-six year old Robert Bowers, walked into Tree of Life Synagogue in the city’s affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood, shouting anti-sematic epithets, and started shooting. Police officers arrived on the scene with four officers and the shooter being wounded. The shooter was taken to a Jewish hospital, still shouting hate-filled rants, while being treated by Jewish doctors and nurses. Those killings shook Jewish communities all across the United States of America and Canada. Vigils were held in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, New York, Toronto, Vancouver and many other major cities around the world, where thousands of Jews gathered in each place, using the hash-tag “#neveragain;” or “#still?” Deep within the DNA of Jewish people around the world, are the scars they endured in the Holocaust of World War II, where 6 million Jews were exterminated, ending just seventy-three years ago. Included in their recent history are the pogroms of Russia, Ukraine and Poland in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. News agencies and television broadcasters interviewed those gathering in these vigils, asking why they had come. Some came wanting to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Some gathered as a show of strength. Others gathered as an act of defiance, indeed saying “never again.” What I missed in the interviews and news commentaries was the need for people to come together and grieve. This is not the “new normal,” nor is it the way “it’s supposed to be.” What’s missing in secularism and the humanistic worldview is the gift of mourning. We need not fear sorrow or sadness, because we know laughter and joy. We are able to weep and invited to be honest in our pain, because we know what it is to rejoice. We are able to lament, because we know what it is to celebrate and dance. We are able to grieve deeply because we are not a people without hope, but live in the resurrection of this world’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. “As followers of this world, which some seek to control, and others view with despair, we declare with joy and trust: Our World Belongs to God.” We extend our condolences and prayers to all who have been cut deeply by the senseless slaughter of the 11 parishioners in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

                                                         Pastor Sid

Karin Terpstra