There is a scene in the 1989 movie Romero in which Salvadoran soldiers have taken possession of a rural church. Archbishop Romero arrives to find the church interior shot up by the soldiers. He withdraws from the church and a crowd of locals stares intently at him, wondering what he will do. He reenters the church, gets on his knees before the main altar and proceeds to gather up as quickly and reverently as he can the consecrated hosts scattered on the floor. A soldier fires over his head and Romero is shoved to the ground. A second time he withdraws, this time driving off. He returns in full clerical garb and leads the locals back into the church; the soldiers fall back and leave.
The bloodshed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, reminds me of this scene. There too, the Body of Christ is desecrated, wounded, dying. There, too, shepherds of various sorts—neighbors, family, friends, first responders—gather up the desecrated bodies as quickly and as reverently as they can. Some have recovered, some will recover, some will die, some have died. Yet all of them are in truth gathered at this time by the One Shepherd, a Shepherd who longs to gather all of us (cf. Luke 13:34).
When next we gather with others for worship, may we live deeply the words of First Baptist pastor Frank Pomeroy encouraging those gathered to welcome one another: “Tell them it’s good to see them in God’s house this morning.” May we be about the work of gathering in our churches, in our towns and cities, in our counties and states, in our nation and in our world.