Last night, just before 11pm, a shooting occurred at York University where two women were injured. According to the news, police did not suspect the women to be targets. They were probably bystanders. I was walking past that food court merely two hours before the shooting happened, on my way to my car, going home after another Theology over Pizza event. As far as I could tell, everything was normal. But, clearly, it was not normal two hours later.
My prayers are with the two injured women and I also pray for the York community as a whole. This institution where I serve as Campus Minister has had its fair share of bad news and crime over the years. It does not deserve this.
today, March 5 March 8 is International Women’s Day. Although we do not know that the shooting is directly an act of violence aimed at women, but the fact that two women were the only casualties is ironic. Women, generally, have had more reasons to fear for their safety.
I want to briefly share a bible meditation and a prayer for the Christian students at York, in particular, and for the York community as a whole. And I hope this little offering might be used by God to encourage and bless you.
New International Version (NIV)
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Let us be real here. “What can mere mortals do to me?” Well, they can shoot me and kill me, for starters! Why should I not be afraid? And to be fair to David, the author of this Psalm, he did admit to being afraid – “When I am afraid” (verse 3), not if I am afraid. There is an honesty there of our natural human instinct to fear that which threatens us. This Psalm was written by David when he was captured by his enemies, the Philistines. Sounds like a valid reason to be afraid.
Yet, he trusts in God. It is when he is afraid that David chooses to put his trust in God. And it is by trusting God that he becomes unafraid. Why? The skeptic might say there’s some psychological mumbo-jumbo going on – a delusion, perhaps. Or perhaps, trusting in God helps him put things in a bigger perspective. Remember that this God whom David trusts and praises is not an abstract theological concept but rather a personal being who David believes has acted to save Israel in the past, and also has acted in David’s own life. Think of David’s clash with Goliath.
But I don’t think this means that David believed he was immune to physical harm because he has God on his side. I don’t think that David trusts that God will make him superhuman or something, or even necessarily pull off miracles just to save his skin. I suspect that even if David falls to his enemies, he knows that there is more than simply physical life and present sufferings. I suspect that David would agree with the apostle Paul’s statements centuries later, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. … And we know that in all things [good or bad] God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18, 28 NIV)
Trusting in God means trusting that, no matter what happens, this God will ultimately ensure that justice is done, wrongs are righted, and good will triumph. And, for Christians, most importantly, our personal lives and well-being are not dependent on our physical safety and security but lies instead in the bond of love that God binds himself to us. And that bond cannot be broken by anything or anyone, no matter the worse that they do, not even if they kill us: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [and that includes guns and bullets], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
Therefore, when you are afraid, trust in the God who loves you to death and beyond.
Dear God, in whom we trust, we mourn at human violence that occurs around the world.
And we, at York University, feel now how close that violence can be.
We pray for those who are hurt from this shooting. We pray for healing of physical and emotional wounds. We pray for those who serve to help them.
We commit the police and all those who seek to deliver justice and to secure safety for the York community. May the perpetrators be brought to justice and safety restored. May everyone’s lives – victims and perpetrators – be healed.
May your grace surround us at York. May we seek to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
May you bless us with courage, unity and love in the midst of this. May we learn to trust in you, and not be ruled by our fears.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.