Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Kathy and I were witness to a sad but moving scene on Friday evening, April 20. We are on vacation in Florida. Kathy was able to attend a quilting conference in Arkansas the first week of our trip, and then we came to Florida to visit my family. My 90-year old dad, and my siblings all live in and around Gainesville, Florida.
On Friday, we drove to Chiefland, Florida, so Kathy could help my sister set up at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Joyshop that took place the next day. I went golfing while Kathy and Martha worked at church. However, in order to get to Chiefland from Gainesville, a person drives through the little town of Trenton, Florida, population about 2000.
Unfortunately, you probably heard about Trenton last week. Two police officers, Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, were shot and killed on Thursday while they ate lunch in a small Chinese restaurant in Trenton. The man who shot them then went to his vehicle and took his own life.
According to news reports, Gilchrist County Sherriff, Bobby Schultz said, "I don't have answers as to why this happened." Schultz said the 29-year-old Ramirez was a 7-year-veteran who was married with children. Lindsay was 25 years old. A statement released Thursday night said the men simply sat down to eat and that there was no crime in progress and no disturbance. “It's important to remember that attacks like Thursday's can happen anywhere, even in small cities like Trenton. After 26 years of doing this, there is nothing that can prepare you for senseless deaths," Schultz said.
I confess that as Kathy and I drove through Trenton on Friday morning, and as we drove past the restaurant where the two officers were murdered, I personally felt a tangible grief and sorrow over these senseless shootings. A pall of loss hung over my soul the whole day.
But, as we drove back to Gainesville on Friday evening, we were touched and we were deeply moved. It seems that we had chosen to return to Gainesville a little before the bodies of the fallen officers were to be brought back to Trenton from the Gainesville Medical Examiner. So, as we drove into Trenton the streets were lined with people, sort of like a parade. Cars were parked. Families gathered at the curb. People held flags. Others wore blue in support of these fallen policemen. However, it was not only in Trenton that people lined the streets. At most every driveway and business along this rural drive for 30 miles into Gainesville, people lined the streets to honor the fallen officers as their bodies were to be transported home. Kathy and I were overwhelmed by the support given by the people of North Florida.
Hopefully, you know that God cares for you eternally through the life and death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But, God also cares for us temporally in many ways. Did you also realize that God cares for and protects the people of this world through civil authorities? God inspired Paul to write in Romans 13, “1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4) God cares for all people by establishing authority to punish those who willingly break the law, in order to protect those who keep the law.
Unfortunately, this shooting is not an isolated incident in our country these days. A news report from April 24 says that, “Since the start of 2018, at least 31 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have died while on duty - with 19 of the deaths caused by gunfire.” Perhaps you heard of other recent shootings, including the one in Dallas. It seems that those who are putting their lives on the line to keep the law have become targets.
Truthfully, there are no perfect leaders and no perfect authorities. There are also no perfect parents. Neither are there any perfect citizens. But, God’s plan is to protect and care for those who seek to live law abiding lives by providing authorities who will bring wrong-doers and criminals to justice.
Pastor Richard Allen, who served officially at St. John from 1999 through 2015 (and still serves), and who also served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, used to have a sign on his office wall which read, “Only two people have been willing to lay down their life for you – Jesus Christ and the US servicemen.” It seems to me that we should add “first responders” to that list of those who lay down their lives for us.
I know that Kathy and I were deeply moved on Friday evening to see so many along the road to Trenton honoring the officers who lost their lives simply because they were protecting ours.
A Child of God, Grieved by the Senseless Rebellion and Violence Against those who Serve Us!
P.S. Here are a couple of articles that have run in local papers about this shooting.
· This article tells of the shooting of the officers. http://www.gainesville.com/news/20180420/trenton-aches-after-officers-shot
· This article tells of their services. http://www.gainesville.com/news/20180424/gilchrist-deputies-remembered-as-good-good-men
P.P.S. Here are some pictures from our vacation. I’ll be adding more pictures as our vacation progresses. https://photos.app.goo.gl/3Iz1u7xY2gq6UkP83
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.