“God Is Alive”

The Rev. Dennis Keen, pastor of Spring City UMC, submitted these comments about the tragic killing of the pastor and eight members of Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, S.C., June 17. He spoke them at the close of worship at Spring City UMC on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

On the night the great luxury liner Titanic sank, it was purported that someone said, “They claimed that God Almighty could not sink this ship.” Immediately another person in the lifeboat responded, “Then God died because He went down with the ship.”

As you know, I prepare myself for worship each week by listening to music. Today, I played the closing songs from “Godspell.”   At the end of the crucifixion Jesus sings “God is dead.” Immediately following the end of that song, the entire ensemble begins singing “Long Live God” and “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

As I listened to those songs, I thought of Emanuel AME Church. I wish I could be there today. You would probably need a shoehorn to get into the church. It’s going to be packed. That church is going to rock today. The message they are going to proclaim is that God is not dead because throughout the years they have heard the Word of God as being love, forgiveness, and acceptance. They are not going to feel sorry for themselves. They are not going to have a case of the “poor me’s”. They are going to proclaim that God is alive through them. They are the instruments of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. They are the instruments who will teach the world that “God is alive” and they are “Preparing Ye the Way of the Lord.”

Yes, they will be sad, the people will be grief-stricken, and they will be in shock. However, that’s not going to be the prevalent mood of that congregation. Others in the world, may say “God is dead” because of this horrific tragedy, but they are going to show the world through their faith in God, that God is alive and they will, as a Body of Christ, continue to make a difference in the lives and souls of people.

In closing, I’m tempted to write Senator Casey, asking him to consider proposing legislation that would make June 17 a national day of “Forgiveness and Healing.” My concern is that those nine people killed will soon be forgotten. Do you remember the names of the boys and girls who were killed in the Connecticut school?

I heard on the news that because of events like this, President Obama has had to address the nation 14 times since he became President. Events like what happened at the Emanuel AME Church are becoming too commonplace. As a consequence, we the American people, are becoming immune and hardened to them. I’m afraid we will soon forget the names of those who lost their lives as a result of this act, and all acts, of domestic terrorism.

We need to set a day apart to remember, forgive and bring healing to our nation. We did that for 9/11. We call it Patriots’ Day. Why not have a special day for the victims of domestic terrorism?   The American people should never forget them.

By The Rev. Dennis Keen