Recently, my beloved, darling precious daughter, Bess, shared a story of a horrible time in her life, in order to express how much she appreciated the life she has now.
Several years ago, she was living a rough life in a dangerous environment with an unpredictable person. After a long time struggling, she decided she had to change, and it wasn't going to be possible where she was. So she got in her car, and left.
She was worried. She wasn't sure if she would be followed. If my memory is correct (and it might not be, because the story terrified me), at one point, she didn't even know where she was.
But she knew enough to say to herself: "if I can just get to my Papa's house, I will be safe."
And she did get to her Papa's house, and she was safe. And she made changes, and better choices, and today, she is living with a husband who loves her, and two little sons who love her, and has a fantastic church home where they all love each other. Her life is much better now than it was.
And the good things started because she remembered:
"If I can just get to my Papa's house, I'll be safe."
Dear ones, when I heard that story, I wanted to do several things at once.
I wanted to run straight back in time, and hug that young woman thoroughly.
I wanted to go explain the truth about the kind of man I am to anyone who ever threatened her.
I wanted to thank God that I had such a relationship with my daughter that I represented safety to her.
Of course, I could only do the last of those; and I did it then, and I do it on a regular basis.
Feeling safe at your papa's house: I wish that were written into our foundation documents as an inalienable right, of the same status as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I think it is reprehensible to violate that.
And that's why I was sickened on Sunday, when I heard of the actions of a deranged young man in Antioch, Tennessee, who murdered a woman in the parking lot, then walked into Burnette's Chapel Church of Christ, and shot six old people, including the pastor and his wife.
I was sickened. Then, I was horrified. And then I was frightened, when I saw the picture of the man the police arrested.
I was frightened, because the man is black. And I knew nothing about Burnette's Chapel. And I was afraid that a black man had shot up a white church.
Do you sometimes think that too many in our country have lost their minds? I've pretty much stopped watching any news at all because of that. Just a little over a month ago, I wrote about the Monster in our country, and how it has turned out to be - us.
People who have allowed lies, and divisiveness, and ignorance and hatred and wilful disobedience to take away peace. And I thought, if that was a white church, there is going to be rioting and murder, and there will be no stopping it.
There IS no prominent voice of reason and reconciliation in our land today. In the words of John Kay in "Renegade", there is only "on the left and to my right, they keep on shouting, while I'm just stuck here in between." And it seems like we are on the edge; and a black man gunning down random white people in a white church might have caught us on fire.
But, we were saved from that. I said that there was no prominent voice of reason in our land. Well, maybe there isn't; but there are local voices; and it's the sound of the local voices that has saved us, this time.
Can I tell you about one of the guys who saved us, this time?
His name is Joey Spann. He's 66 years old. He's the pastor of Burnette's Chapel Church of Christ. And he took a bullet to the chest and one to the hand in the shooting on Sunday. But that's not how he saved us.
He saved us by making a commitment to serving a church that was committed to being more than the white people's church; more than being the black people's church. More than being the church of the rich and the powerful. He saved us by providing a church that serves all of us, red and yellow, black and white.
And harm came to him because of that. The young man who killed a mother in the parking lot, who shot Joey Spann in the chest and hand, and shot his wife, and shot his elderly parishioners: he had been welcomed at the church, and had been a regular in the past, but had dropped out some time ago. And at some point over the last several months, his own personal demons drove him to commit an act of abomination, to desecrate the safety of the Father's house.
But, because of the outreach and determination on the part of Joey Spann and others, it really WAS a Father's house, where all of His children are welcome. And it was tragic for them; but, because it was a special, anointed, and lovely place, the haters will not seize on it as an excuse to do vile things. Those who wish to have a symbol to launch race hatred will not find it in Antioch.
Because Joey Spann, and men and women like him, saved us from that.
Now, will you pray with me?
Father God, I pray for the brothers and sisters at Burnette's Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. Please, Father, grant them the grace to experience perfect love that casts away fear. Let the righteous acts of those who have served that church in the past be a memorial to those who worship there, and to draw others to worship. Let us hold precious in our hearts the memory of Melanie Crow, who was struck down; and her children, and her friends and family. Let us remember the suffering of those wounded. Let us give thanks for those who resisted, even to the point of shedding blood.
And will you place in the hearts of all of us, particularly the family of Burnette's Chapel, the prayer my daughter taught me:
If I can just make it to my Papa's house, I'll be safe.
Peace be on your household