A pastor calls for prayer, faith

Shootings: The Rev. Robert Anderson tells his Randallstown congregation to trust in God's plan.

May 10, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Members of Colonial Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in Randallstown, gathered on a beautiful Sunday morning yesterday to give thanks on Mother's Day. But the hymns, the prayers, the sermon, the benediction, even the church announcements were tinged with sadness and incomprehension over the shootings at Randallstown High School on Friday afternoon that injured four teenagers and left two suspects in jail and two more on the run from police.

None of the injured nor the suspects belongs to the church, the Rev. Robert Anderson said, but that didn't make the pain in the community any less severe or the violence that caused it any more understandable.

"Our community has been struck really hard by that shooting there at Randallstown High," Anderson said at the beginning of the 11 a.m. service. "Pray for the administrators as they deal with students coming back tomorrow. Pray for the victims. Pray for the shooters, and just pray for our community."

The packed congregation of worshipers dressed in their Mother's Day finest held hands and swayed as Anderson called them to prayer. A teen-age girl sitting in the back of the sanctuary, "I love mom" written in marker on the back of her yellow T-shirt, choked back tears as others came forward at the end of the service to offer extra prayers for the victims.

Anderson had prepared his Mother's Day sermon around the story of Jochebed, the mother of Moses, who defied the Pharaoh's decree that all Hebrew male babies be killed. When she could hide Moses no longer, she laid him in a basket and allowed him to float away on the Nile.

As Anderson had envisioned it, the parable illustrated the love of a mother, her willingness to sacrifice, and the notion that every child is special and part of God's plan. But, he said after the service, just days after four boys were shot outside a school by others who were the same age or not much older, the tale can help make sense of the senseless.

Moses was born into slavery for a reason, he was put out onto the Nile for a reason, and as hard as it may be to comprehend, Anderson said, the events of Friday afternoon occurred for a reason.

"God has a plan for all of our kids. Sometimes even Mom and Dad might not know what it is, but God has put you here, and he is up to something," Anderson said.

At the end of the sermon, Anderson called on the members of the congregation to pray again for the victims, especially for William Thomas, the most seriously injured of the four, whose family said this weekend they fear he may be paralyzed. He said he hopes Thomas' suffering can bring about a reawakening of spirituality in the community.

"We are part of this community," Anderson said. "Maybe God is waking us up to be more involved."

But even more difficult to understand than the purpose of the victims' suffering is the reason for the shootings, Anderson said. Police have explained that the gunfire came during a fight over a girl after a charity basketball game.

"I understand that happened just because of a girl?" Anderson thundered to his congregation, his voice rising in incredulity. "Going up to a school where basketball is being played and shooting a gun everywhere? What kind of a mind is that?"

The purpose of such things can be hard to see, Anderson said.

After Moses' mother left him on the Nile, he was rescued and raised by the Pharaoh's daughter, Anderson said, reading from the Book of Exodus. When he was grown, Moses saw his people, the Hebrews, forced into labor by the Egyptians. When he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and then fled to the desert.

Everything that followed - Moses' 40 years in the wilderness, the plagues of Egypt, the freeing of the slaves, the parting of the Red Sea, the transmission of the Ten Commandments, the deliverance to the promised land - all was set into motion because Moses killed a man.

"The question is, is there an answer to sin, no matter how awful it is? The answer is yes," Anderson said. "God can use their own meanness and violent actions and let them know how important it can be for them to have God in their lives. God can take the evil we do, and even the evil in our hearts, and bring reconciliation and even forgiveness."

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