unite

A Tipping Point?

By Revs. Al and Deb Warner

As you read this, the events of Saturday, August 14 may have begun to dim for some of you. That morning eight people were shot at a Buffalo restaurant, with four dying from their wounds. All four who died were African Americans. The national news called it the 'Buffalo massacre.'  

As we sat through the funeral services of 3 of the 4 victims, I asked the question that has been asked countless times, “Lord, what is Your Word to the grief stricken families, churches, neighborhoods, and to our region?” In a season of violence and death, it is far easier to recognize the hand of the enemy than the hand of the Lord. Pat answers do not work during such times.

When Jesus came to the funeral of his friend Lazarus, He internalized the grief around Him and wept, even though He was about to accomplish His greatest miracle to date – the resurrection of Lazarus. In order to hear God’s voice, it is important to ‘weep with those who weep.’ (Rom. 12:15 NLT) The compassion of Christ came even closer as I reflected that the caskets held 32-year-old Tiffany Wilhite, 27-year-old Tia McNeil, and 26-year-old Willie McCaa. (We were not able to attend the service for 30-year-old Danyell Mackin.) These ages are too close to my own sons who are in their twenties.

As the tears begin to dry, what might God be saying?

First, this is not only Buffalo’s battle, but a regional battle, a call to arms! In Numbers 32, God declares that when one tribe of Israel is at war, ALL tribes of Israel are at war. No tribe could enjoy peace in their land while their brothers and sisters continued in conflict. It is too easy to act as though murders in Buffalo are not my problem if I live outside the city. The enemy loves to pick us off one tribe at a time. I believe that if the tribe/church of Buffalo is at war, then the tribe/church of Amherst is at war, the tribe/church of Orchard Park is at war, etc.

Second, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Is the compassion of Christ filling your heart as you pray for Buffalo? ‘You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.’ (Luke 6:36 NLT) Compassion can be uncomfortable because it often requires me to get involved. What will you do if you pray for God to make a difference in Buffalo, and if He replies that you are the answer?

Third, some of the leaders and pastors in Buffalo are weary. They have buried too many of our precious young people in the last few years.
Exodus 17:10-13 (The Message) It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses' hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down. Joshua defeated Amalek and its army in battle.
God is calling us to strengthen our brother’s and sister’s arms. This includes:
*prayers of protection for those who are on the front lines
*prayer for godly wisdom and strategy for our leaders
*prayer for blessing and life to triumph over curse and death
*prayer for concrete signs of hope, including improved housing, education, job creation
God announces that He has ‘…plans to give you hope and a future.’ (Jer. 29:11b NIV) Agree with God!
Last, could this horrible tragedy become a tipping point, a rallying cry that awakens our region and causes us collectively to say, ‘No more. Not on my watch.’ During the funeral service at True Bethel Baptist Church, Pastor Pridgen spontaneously raised an offering of $20,000 to act as a reward for the conviction of the killer(s). At the conclusion of the service, Pastor Pridgen gave an invitation for young men and young women to come forward and begin a new spiritual journey. The front of the sanctuary was filled. These are sacred moments.
As you read and reflect on this, what will your response be?
Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV)
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."