I had planned to write a reflection on gratitude for Thanksgiving this week. It’s a short week, with a lot going on, and it seemed best to offer a short devotion in order to let everyone get on with their cleaning, cooking, traveling, and eating.

However, since I made that plan, Raymond, Kelly, Daniel, Derrick, and Ashley were murdered at a nightclub in Colorado Springs, and it is necessary to address this tragedy. I hope you won’t begrudge me the few extra minutes it will take for a longer reflection.

Late on Saturday night, the five people mentioned above were at Club Q, a gay bar in Colorado Springs, along with scores of other people packed into the bar for a night out with friends or family. Then a man in body armor entered the club and started shooting. In the chaos, a combat veteran and a drag queen worked together to subdue the gunman. Raymond, Kelly, Daniel, Derrick, and Ashley were killed. Eighteen others were injured. The gunman is being held on charges of murder and hate crimes.

In the aftermath of this horror, there have been outpourings of support for Club Q and the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs and around the nation. There has also been deep sorrow and anger. Both responses are right. In the face of evil, we should lament and cry out and step up to protect those who have been hurt.

When Abraham Lincoln first instituted Thanksgiving as a national holiday, he said this: 

“I recommend to [my fellow citizens] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to [God]…, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to [God’s] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

In the midst of the Civil War, a battle not just for governance but over the question of right and wrong and human rights, Lincoln recognized that the time was right for the nation to gather– but only if their gratitude was tempered by an awareness of the casualties of the struggle, particularly those who suffered through no doing of their own. Then, through penitence and praise, the people might ask God’s healing and harmony for the nation.

It has been 109 years since President Lincoln called for a nationwide Thanksgiving. Still, we find ourselves facing division, questions of right and wrong and human rights, and victims who suffer through no fault of their own. Still too many people perversely deny the image of God in the love and lives of lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender neighbors. Is there a way toward healing and harmony for us?

One of the repeated themes in RLC’s cottage meetings (you can read the full response summary in this week’s e-news) was appreciation for the ways in which this congregation has been inclusive and accepting of LGBTQ+ members and family, along with interest in having further conversations as a congregation about how to be deliberate in affirming folks of every gender and orientation. Tragedies like the one in Colorado Springs can never be undone, but they can serve as the push we need to fight for a better, kinder, more inclusive tomorrow. 

May this Thanksgiving, like the first, be a time of gratitude and of resolution to more closely follow as God has called us to care for our neighbors who suffer the consequences of violence and hate.