The deadliest rampage in Canadian history occurred this past April 18-19 in Nova Scotia. After a 13-hour shooting and arson spree, 22 victims were dead and three injured. The dead victims included an RCMP constable, a retired firefighter, a teacher, a waitress, an educational assistant for special needs students, a teenage girl who played the violin, two correctional officers, two nurses, a cancer survivor, and an active church volunteer. They were fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, family members, and friends. I pray for those grieving.
It took me a while to write this in response to the horrific shootings. For starters, I tend to be a cautious soul who hates jumping too quickly to comment on events. I need to reflect and ponder first. I like to get the whole story. I want to see what transpires and how others respond. So here I am, almost two weeks from the incident, struggling to find words of hope and comfort for my fellow Canadians, especially Canadian readers of The Banner.
On April 24, a public digital vigil (as pandemic restrictions prevented public gatherings) was aired over national TV, and the entire nation of Canada collectively mourned and paid tribute to the dead. One of the organizers of this virtual vigil, Tiff Ward, was quoted to say, “We have to bring a lot of light to shine out this awful darkness.”
Yes, we do need to bring a lot of light to shine into this awful darkness. As Christians, we remember that Jesus called himself the light of the world: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Light, in the Bible, often represents life, salvation, and all that entails. Jesus is the source of life for a world caught in the clutches of death.
Exactly a week before the mass murders, we celebrated Good Friday and Easter. We were reminded that Jesus conquered the grave. And we were reminded that we do not get to the resurrection glory of Easter without first experiencing the darkness of the cross. Because Jesus is the light of the world, we have hope that the darkness will not prevail.
But Jesus is not the only light of the world. In fact, Jesus called his disciples the same: “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16). We are called to bring Christ’s light of life into all the corners of our darkened world. We do not only have a hope; we also have a mission or a purpose.
In these pandemic times, my church’s Sunday worship services have become pre-recorded affairs for members to watch on YouTube. I was scheduled to preach for the Sunday of April 19. I recorded my sermon on the Thursday night. Of course, I couldn’t have known of the Nova Scotia tragedy that was about to happen. I was preaching on Jesus’ resurrection as a follow-up to Easter. And I ended my sermon with these words:
“Jesus did not rise from the dead to simply prove that he is God. Rather, Jesus rose from the dead in order to conquer death and to give us life. Jesus rose from the dead to make sure that life, and not death, but life has the last word. And it’s not only as a ticket out of hell, so to speak. Rather, Jesus’ resurrection is a deposit, a sign, that God’s new life, God’s kingdom of life, is real and has already started breaking through into our world. So if we believe that Jesus truly did rise from the dead, did triumph over death, then we believe that God is already at work in this world, not just sometime in the future, but already had and is continuing to work his resurrection life, his triumph over sin and death, into reality all around us. And we are called, in fact sent, to join him in that life-changing project. We are sent as Jesus was sent to bring God’s peace, to bring forgiveness, to bring faith into this world. If we truly believe in Jesus’ resurrection, we cannot simply continue living like we always have, or like everyone else, but we have a higher purpose and calling. And we have to live differently.”
Inspired and empowered by Jesus the light, let us keep doing good deeds for our neighbors, bringing God’s light of life into the darkness.