On October 2nd, a unique anniversary was remembered.  Four years before, a vast crowd gathered in Las Vegas to enjoy the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival, all the while unaware that a man was preparing to end their lives across the street on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.  He succeeded with fifty-eight innocent lives taken and hundreds more injured in this worst mass shooting in US history. 

The FBI investigates the scene on the 32nd-floor of the Mandalay Bay on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal)

This event stands out clearly in my mind, though I was half a nation away, due to a new interest I was pursuing.  I had never watched a single moment of professional hockey before this time.  I had heard from my supervisor at work that Vegas was getting their own professional hockey team, and he said, “wouldn’t it be cool to be a fan from the very beginning of a sports team’s history?”  And I said yes.  I bought in wholesale before the season began and it was a record-breaking year for any expansion team in any sport’s history.

However, two days before the season began, this shooting took place.  Two days before this new team was meant to bring a little more excitement into the city, drawing revenue and yet another point of pride for a city like Vegas, the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history ravaged its population.

The team retired the number ‘58’, never to be worn again, before a single game was played in their history.  They did this to honor those who lost their lives in this tragedy and now, every year, they honor those fallen and the first responders who risked their lives to protect and serve their community. 

Why do go out of our way to remember heartbreak?

Last week, I posted a devotional that I wrote for the church early in the pandemic.  I’ve been reflecting on it ever since and I keep coming back to the same verse – Deuteronomy 8:1-3:

8:1 “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the ways which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”

God asked that his people remember 40 years of wandering in the desert – time which they found so uncomfortable that they wished to go back to Egypt and remain in slavery?

We’re to remember in Luke 22 when Jesus was setting up the communion tradition that we still take part in today, 2,000 years later.  So many years later and we remember what?  His death.  We remember His broken body and His spilled blood.  Not the memory of good times and laughter, or even His life changing teachings.  We are asked to remember the horrific abuse of His life and the ghastly way in which He died. 

Do you see?  We remember shootings and other losses of life because we respect the dignity and value of those lost.  They meant something.  There is something profound about that universal human practice.  However, we see that we’re called in Scripture to set up memorials to remember the ways in which God has led us all these years.  He led the Israelites through the wilderness.  He led His early Church through the gore-filled loss of their Messiah.  And He has led you through your days as well, even to the degree of giving you daily breath.

Where have you set up memorials to remember God’s faithfulness?  Have you gone so far as Vegas to retire a number and looking regularly at the reminder of the ‘58’ in the rafters?  If the world sets up reminders to continually bring their minds back to events such as this, may we choose to remember even the most difficult of occasions in order to see how God has walked with us through them all.

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

The Spiritual Weight in Remembering a Shooting

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