Faith Matters: In Grief and Pain, Point to Light and Life

Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

I found myself this past week in an all to familiar position: gathered with a family at the death of their loved one. We gathered to celebrate her life, to remind one another of her impact on our lives, and to commend her to the mercy of God. But as sacred and familiar of a task as it was for me, I did reach a point in the service where ,y words stopped me in my tracks.

As I began a series of prayer petitions following my message, the words (which, admittedly, I’ve prayed before) struck me in a new way and stopped me in my tracks. I prayed:

“…Grant to those of us still in our pilgrimage, who walk as yet by faith, that where this world groans in grief and pain, your Spirit may lead us to bear witness to your light and life…” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship)

…where the world is in grief and pain, we point to light and life…

As I prayed, my consciousness zeroed in on the words in a fashion that hardly permitted me to continue the service. The moment brought clarity to the questions and helplessness I have been wrestling with in these pandemic, uncertain, and tumultuous times.
You see, I was tempted to believe one of two erroneous ways. Tempted to believe that my voice doesn’t matter on the one hand and tempted to believe that focusing on the grief and pain was my responsibility on the other. As a Christian, my job is to bear witness to the light.

Of course, as people of faith we can never turn a blind eye to injustice or hatred (nor can we allow ourselves to ever embrace them). Our response to a world in pain, is to point to the light.

As this paper is released on MLK Jr. Day, I’m reminded of his own tamale on this matter. He said:

“Returning hate for hate multiples hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

If you’re feeling helpless in this time division and disease, and you are wondering if there is anything you can do, remember the answer is always yes. Only your job isn’t to solve all the problems, but to keep sharing Gods life and light in the midst of them.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.