A Voice Is Heard In Nashville

A Voice Is Heard In Nashville

Article by R.D. McClenagan
Yet again...

“A voice is heard in Nashville, lamentation and bitter weeping.
Mothers weeping for their children, refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

Chad Scruggs, Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church and father of Hallie Scruggs, one of the three children killed at Covenant School in the tragic shooting on Monday, asked this question in his powerful March 5th sermon “Death’s Conqueror” “How do we face death in our world, especially untimely deaths without the pain and confusion of death leading us to despair?”

The ages of the three children killed at Covenant School are the exact same age as my oldest daughters—9 years old.

There are, of course, no words that can capture the grief, horror, shock, and evil of this latest mass shooting. The reports of parents wailing and waiting as they waited to see if their children would walk off the bus, safe from the physical carnage but stained forever by the emotional and psychological trauma of this day. This is the deepest grief, the greatest pain—to not only lose a child but to lose a child in such a senseless and evil act of violence. In addition to the three children, three adults were tragically also killed, including the head of school, a substitute teacher, and a member of the custodial team.

As followers of Jesus, we must be at the forefront of praying and asking the Lord to provide deep and manifest comfort to the families. We must not become cynical about prayer, even when it can feel so woefully inadequate for the moment.

God invites us to pray and to pray on behalf of others, and we know how very present the Lord is to those in the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 34:18 says— “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

There is a reason that the prayer book of the people of Israel, the Psalms, is filled with prayers of lament. Because there is so much in our world to lament and grieve. The Bible shows us the world as it truly is—filled with suffering, pain, and death. There is good and joy and beauty in the world. The Bible revels in that as well, but from Genesis 3 on, we see an absolute mess of humanity on page after page and a gracious and loving God entering into this very mess with us to give us real and actual hope in the very midst of it. The biblical authors do not say that God will spare us from every affliction but that God will be with us in every affliction.

We can and must pray to the Lord when tragedies happen and not lose heart in coming before Him, pleading with Him to move in power. The church has always met the greatest moments of suffering with the deepest reservoirs of prayer, lament, and tears.

But prayer is not all God calls us to. Pray is an action, but it is not meant to replace other actions that may be needed for justice to roll down or for systemic issues to be addressed. Tears and righteous anger, lament, and laboring for the kingdom to come here and now are the way to respond to the world in all of its brokenness.
There are many different issues at play within these tragic mass shootings that we have seen in our country over the past 25 years. There is mental health, gun control, family dynamics, online behavior, spiritual oppression, social isolation, and others that help to form the web that is a mass shooting.

The church is not the state. We do not have the power to pass or enact laws, but that does not mean we should be disengaged from the state or from the issues of our day. We must advocate for policies that create a more just world. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution takes center stage each time there is a mass shooting, and how exactly what the founders intended relates to the personal possession of the types of firearms we have today. That is a very important debate to continue to have, but that is not for this article.

The 2nd Amendment is important, but it is not as important as the 2nd part of the Great Commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving others and laying your life down for others is the controlling ethic of the New Testament, not individual rights.

Laying down your life, not taking up your arms, is the way of Cross-shaped people. This doesn’t mean that individual rights are unimportant, but that the American insistence on individual rights so often taking precedent over every other consideration is not what the New Testament teaches. What must drive followers of Jesus is the flourishing and well-being of others, not ourselves.

So, my encouragement and challenge to us is to pray and pray and pray.
And let love for others be the greatest ethic of your heart and hands.
And don’t give in to cynicism.
And know there is an evil power in the world that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.
And weep. And sow in tears.
And know America is a country where there is much to be proud of, but it is not the Kingdom of God.
And pray specifically for deep repentance and revival in our country.
And ask the Lord to come soon and very soon.

Chad Scruggs ended his March 5th sermon with this profound insight, made more haunting now in light of what happened.

“What do you do if you are doubting the love of Jesus? Do you try to work it out through your circumstances. No, you can’t do that. You never read your circumstances into the love of Jesus. You read the love of Jesus into your circumstances. If you are doubting his love and struggling with sadness and grief, look again and again to the Cross and say with confidence, ‘See how He loves me.’”

For third graders, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, and adults Katherine Koonce, Mike Hill, and Cynthia Peak, Monday, March 27th, 2023, was their final day on earth, but not the final day of their life. They will be raised on the last day.

I was able to tuck my girls in last night. To say a prayer with them. To tickle them. To know they are in the room just down from my wife and mine. Many parents at Covenant School and, tragically, many other schools over the past decade have lost that nightly moment. So many moms and dads weeping for their children. We weep with them. As does our Lord. It is not all the Lord is asking us, but it is the right place to start. Sow in tears and pray…

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.


Pastor for Adult Ministries & Teaching
Posted in ,