Fear and Loving in Las Vegas — The Rev. Victoria Larson

I spoke last night on the steps of the PA State Capitol at a vigil for the victims of Las Vegas, at the invitation of the wonderful organizers from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It was an honor to be invited, and a huge challenge to figure out what to say. I’m blessed with friends that shared words that were meaningful to them in advance, some of which found their way into what I ended up saying. You know who you are.

Here’s what I said:

I haven’t brought myself to watch any of the footage yet, but I know that there’s one video in which a police officer shouts that there’s gunshots, that people need to get down, and someone else yells back, “Those aren’t gunshots! Those are fireworks!”

He couldn’t fathom a thing like gunshots in the middle of a live concerts. It had to be fireworks. It had to be.

I understand where he’s coming from. I confess to you that when I first heard news of this shooting, my first reaction was to turn away. To distract myself.

At first it doesn’t feel real.
59 dead.
Over 500 wounded.
The deadliest shooting in modern American history.
It takes several days for these facts to accrue meaning.

And that horrifies me. That I no longer react as a normal human being should at the news that a brother of mine, a fellow human being, turned a concert venue into a shooting range. That my first reaction when I hear the first death toll isn’t horror or grief, but…apathy. It doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore.

I confess.
I lament.
I am imperfect.
I feel overwhelmed by my imperfection.
I don’t want any of this to be true.
I want it to have been fireworks all along.

I feel angry, and sad, and trapped, and I feel nothing, by turns.
I cannot imagine what those in Las Vegas must be feeling.

I wonder what the chances are that anything will actually change.
I wonder if it’s true that we love our guns more than we love one another’s children.

As a person of faith, the place where I turn when I can find hope in no other place is to my God. And I think of the stories that have been told about my God for thousands of years. They talk about a God who isn’t afraid of darkness. They talk about a God who midwifes a new future, a God who kneels down in the midst of screaming and blood and somehow lifts up new life in her arms. They talk about a God who knows us. Who knows what we do to one another, who knows how helpless and desperate we feel, who knows we feel like we’re living a nightmare and we can’t wake up. God is awake.

Those stories talk about a God whose constant refrain is, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not be afraid,” “Do not be afraid,” even when the whole world seems to be running on fear, whether it’s fear that their guns will be taken away, or fear that tomorrow, it will be their child that must be buried.

Who are we when we are not afraid?
Who are we when we are not afraid?

We are people who hope.
We are people who trust.
We are people who do not give up on love, on loving, on responding out of love, and believing that love wins.

At the end of the vigil, I was invited to pray, and because she who sings prays twice, I made my prayer a song that I dwell in during times of grief and pain. You can listen to Mark Miller’s beautiful setting of it, the one I sang, here. These are the lyrics:

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when God is silent.
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.


The Rev. Victoria Larson is Pastor at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Steelton.


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