For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Rising up to the Lord as a beautiful aroma were the prayers of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Calling upon the Prince of Peace with an unexpected visitor. Having all faith in the Strong Tower of the righteous, they lifted their voices with prayer, petition, tears, and gratefulness. Joining together in union with the Holy Spirit and the Lord is true – He was there with them. The visitor that perhaps some knew, and some were praying for believing it was a good thing for this troubled man to be in the Lord’s House of Prayer, suddenly stood and began to steal life. One by one, bloodletting shots rang out, and where was God? He was there with them. One victim was allowed to live so that she could tell the story. Another little girl taking the advice of her grandmother played dead and so survived. They will forever wonder why they were allowed to live while those they loved deeply were not. The haunting moments after the shooter fled, but before the police arrived filled the Lord’s house with absolute shock and where was God? He abideth with them. He hovered over them. His anger rose high above them. His tears fell upon them. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Glory be to God!
Many will ask that question as if the Lord abandoned. Many will push for human efforts to protect as if the Lord didn’t. But He did not abandon and His protection was certain. Would we say the Lord did not protect His only begotten Son as He was nailed to a cross? No, we would say that it was God’s plan for His Son to die, but does not the Word teach us that we are to love with the love of Christ and that love gives it’s life for the sake of others. The protection of the Lord Jesus Christ had been upon Him preparing Him for that moment. The Holy Spirit was with Christ giving Him the strength to resist every temptation, the strength to fulfill His purpose on the cross.
Our brothers and sisters whose lives were taken also had the protection of the Lord. Never knowing when this life would end for them, the Holy Spirit had drawn them into the Presence of the Lord, into salvation by faith, so that at the very unexpected moment of their death, in the blink of an eye, they were standing in the glorious light of the Throne in Heaven. The Devil intended to destroy them, yet his efforts only freed them from the shackles of this earthly dome. They shall be missed no doubt, but we celebrate their new home, their new bodies, and their reunion with Christ. Pain gone. Struggles gone. Regret gone. Guilt gone. Aches gone. Sickness gone. The small pop of gun was overwhelmed by the shouting, laughter, and praise of Mom and Dad, Mimi and Poppa, friends gone too soon and family that had passed on. Jumping hand in hand, joy overflowing in a place without shadow. And where was God? He was right there.
The Devil has many masks of evil, but they all have one purpose. He will use every kind of evil to destroy the faith of humanity in a God who is always good, but the Lord told me to remind you that there is no weapon ever formed or ever will be that shall prosper against the spirit of those who believe. Our faith is our shield and rampart. Is it the protection of the Lord that He has given us. It is the evidence of what we can’t see with our eyes, but we know in our heart. It is that faith that allows us to see this bloody scene differently from the world. No doubt, there is suffering for all who survived and for all who lost a dear one. But in faith, the suffering takes us back to the Lord and the eyes of our heart open the Heavens and we see the glory of those who have finished the race and overcome. Our faith open the ears of our spirit and we hear the beautiful, sweet voice of our Jesus and the beloved words, “Well done. Well done, my good and faithful servants.”
Pastors gathered across the street to pray. Believers all over the world will come together and pray. Those who entered Heaven have left many friends and family. Those friends and family with faith will hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit reminding that those who were murdered here on Earth received the goal of their faith in Heaven. Those friends and family who do not believe will struggle to make sense of it all. As they mourn, and stand in front of graves, they will remember the love that emanated from their loved one. They will see other believers weep from their loss while their hope in Christ grows stronger. They will remember the life and the words. They will come face to face with a moment where they must decide if they will put their faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit will impress upon them the memory of the ones passed giving them just one more reason to seek Heaven’s Gates. And the blood spilled will mark not the absence of God’s hand, but the glory of His plan for where two or more come together in His name, He is right there with them.
Let us mourn with those who have suffered horrific loss. May their sorrow be met with the comfort that can come only from the Holy Spirit. And let us rejoice that these citizens of Heaven have finally arrived home. And where is God? He is with those here who mourn and He is with those in Heaven who rejoice. He is with those who struggle in faith and with those whose faith becomes even more resolute. He was in the church. His presence will be felt at the grave. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. To God be the Glory!