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Funerals begin in Connecticut, Obama cites Bible, vows action; Luter points to God’s house

NEWTOWN, Conn. (BP) — Funerals were held today (Dec. 17) for two of the 20 children shot to death last Friday in the presumed safety of a Newtown, Ct., elementary school.

At nearby Southbury Baptist Church, pastor Bryan Sims met Monday with Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers drawn to the community to join in the daunting healing process. The church is serving as a base for Southern Baptist responders. The leaders encouraged Southern Baptists to pray for Newtown and suggested financial donations be sent to the Baptist Convention of New England’s Victim Relief Fund.

At Sunday’s interfaith prayer vigil in Newtown, President Obama offered the assurance of 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 in his remarks.

“Scripture tells us: ‘… do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,'” President Obama said at the vigil, quoting from the passage. “‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.'”

Friday in the town of 30,000, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother at home, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults, before committing suicide.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter said the mass murder should be a wake-up call.

“What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School could happen at any school in America. No town, city or state in America is exempt from the demonic attacks of the enemy,” Luter said. “As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I would like to call on Southern Baptists across America to do three things in the aftermath of this tragedy in Newtown, Ct.” — to pray for spiritual revival; share their faith; and be “lights in a dark world” and “salt in a salt-less society.”

“If revival is going to happen in America it is not going to happen because of who is in the White House, the governor’s house, or the mayor’s house; but revival will happen because of who is in God’s house,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “The Bible is very clear that if revival is going to happen in our nation, it MUST start with the people of God.”

Like so many pastors across the nation, Sims preached on the tragedy in his Sunday (Dec. 16) sermon.

“I do trust that God will bring good out of this … thing. For a God who created a universe out of nothing, nothing is impossible,” Sims said.

Sims is keeping the congregation updated through the church’s Facebook page, telling of three Mississippians trained in trauma ministry who were en route to the church.

“Along with [North American Mission Board disaster relief chaplaincy coordinator] Enio Aguero, they will use our church as a home base to coordinate efforts for ministry to Newtown and beyond,” Sims wrote. “They will also help us develop a plan for the future ministry to the community.” To support the outreach ministry, financial contributions can be sent to the Baptist Convention of New England’s Victim Relief Fund, 87 Lincoln St., Northborough, MA 01532.

As families grieve, Obama said the nation must do more to protect its children.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” the president said at the Sunday vigil. “We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

“But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson (Ariz.), and Aurora (Colo.), and Oak Creek (Wis.), and Newtown, and communities from Columbine (Colo.) to Blacksburg (Va.) before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.”

Obama pledged quick action.

“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have?” Obama said.

“We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?” Obama asked. “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).