One week ago my congregation gathered in the sanctuary as we began the season of Lent by receiving the imposition of the ashes. Only a few hours before the worship service, news of the horrible event in Parkland, FL started to reverberate in our hallways. Over the past several days, we have learned a lot about the victims, their families, and the students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In the past week I have been awed by the stories I have heard. Several of the young victims were people of faith, actively participating in the life of their congregations. They played instruments in worship, were active in their youth ministries, and served on mission teams. I have also admired the courage and conviction of those students who survived the attack. Listening to their resolve and conviction inspires me and renews a sense of hope within me.
These students do not let their age hinder their boldness. They are passionately demanding to be heard. Their witness reminds me of words addressed to Timothy, a young person of strong faith and conviction who was called to teach Christians. “You are young,” he was told, “but do not let anyone treat you as if you were not important. Be an example to show the believers how they should live. Show them with your words, with the way you live, with your love, with your faith, and with your pure life” (1Ti 4:12 ICV). I see these students from Parkland embracing the sentiment of these words.
Given the terrible tragedy they experienced, and their tender ages, I find myself praying for these kids with great fervor. My heart breaks for them, knowing they have already been through so much, knowing they still face a long a difficult path forward. Yet, because I do not want to yield to despair, I cheer them on in their pursuit of justice and transformation. I want them to persevere and succeed. Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and not lose heart. In the story, a widow keeps bothering a judge, asking for justice. Though the judge does not respect God or other people, he relents because of her continuous demand to be heard and made whole. Though these young people are confronting a system that does not seem to always respect life, or God, I pray that they, like the widow who was also looked down upon, will prevail in their righteous endeavors, and be an inspiration to us all.