In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;

     let me never be put to shame;

     deliver me in your righteousness.

Incline your ear to me;

     make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

     for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,

     for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

     for you have redeemed me,

     O Lord, O God of truth.

                                         -Psalm 31:1-5

Dear Friends,

There is no shying from the fact that this is a sad week in our country. The murder and wounding of so many in Las Vegas is a heartbreaking visitation of death. These last few weeks in our country seem to have had sadness steadily on offer, but these murders are particularly stark, disgusting and fearful.

I have found my prayers filled with mercy for those who were killed, and a powerful desire for our hearts to be changed. I pray that those killed are held now in God's embrace of eternal love. That those injured will heal with swiftness. That families will gather close for comfort, and know the presence of our crucified God with them in their pain. That for any who might look at these murders and contemplate a horrible act of their own, that their hearts would instead be broken open with sorrow and a desire for new relationship. And that for myself and we many who look on from afar, we would build up communities of love that do not give birth to such horrors.

I have prayed this prayer fervently, trusting the power of prayer in myself and the world. And yet...and yet I know that death will come again. And so I have also been drawn to the Psalms; where our ancestors in faithfulness have stored up so much wisdom and experience of life with God.

Psalm 31 is often prayed at night, as a last act for the day and for setting oneself at peace with God. It holds in tension the strength of God's care and the dangers of the world. Its author is not naïve. Not sheltered. Not simple-minded. They have known profound distress. But in the midst of that distress they have continued to call upon the Lord, and have found God's steadiness more lasting than the steadiness of their sorrows.

Their proclamation of continuing hope is not triumphal. They do not speak like a victor who has vanquished all enemies, but instead they speak of hope alive right in the midst of continuing challenges and hurts. It's grittiness has drawn me in in the past, and again today. I love most its final line, which I pray will strengthen you also "for the living of these days," as a hymn says.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

The final word is God's alone to speak, and it is hope.

Yours In That Hope,