Posts tagged ‘San Antonio’

Sutherland Springs, Texas

I am growing weary of the phrase “active shooter situation.”  Whenever I hear the phrase, I know what it means.  It means more bodies counted.  It means more families shattered.  It means more communities terrified.  It means more tranquility robbed.  It means more tears shed.  It means more loss endured.

This time, an active shooter situation came for Sutherland Springs, Texas – a town that, admittedly, although I’ve heard of it and live right up the road from it in San Antonio, I had to look up on Google Maps to jog my memory as to its precise location.

The numbers out of Sutherland Springs are awful.  26 people have been killed, including several children, the youngest of which was only 18 months old, and nearly two dozen more have been injured after a gunman opened fire at the First Baptist Church there during its morning worship service.  It is the deadliest mass shooting at a house of worship in American history and the deadliest mass shooting period in Texas’ history.

So, once again, we pray.  And, once again, we grieve.  And, once again, we hope this will be the last mass shooting.  And, once again, we know that, in spite of our hopes, it probably will not be.  Though law enforcement officials have not yet discerned a definite motive, we know that the prospect of fame, even if it comes in the form of infamy, the chance at revenge, or the allure of making one’s voice heard through bullets seems to be so enticing that it overwhelms even the most basic of moral instincts – the moral instinct to celebrate and protect life.

As with other tragedies, people want to know why and how this could have happened.  Why would a man who lived in New Braunfels drive 45 minutes south to open fire on a country Baptist congregation?  How did no one see this coming?  How do we protect ourselves when so many places in our communities and neighborhoods, simply by virtue of the fact that we live in a free society, are soft targets for people with evil intent?

One of the blessings of being a part of a church family is that, if the church family is healthy, it tends to feel safe.  It is a safe place for people to worship with their families.  It is a safe place to make friends and grow in relationships.  It is a safe place to turn when a sickness strikes or a loved one is lost in order to receive prayers and support.  It is a safe place to process struggles and ask questions about faith and God.  But this feeling of safety has been severely tested by this tragedy.

It is important to remember that this feeling of safety that can sometimes seem so indigenous to some churches was not – and still is not – a normal feature of families of faith.  Churches all across the world are being bombed, shot up, and terrorized because of their confession of Christ.  The apostle Paul, in Romans 8:36, writes about what it was like to be a member of a church in the first century when he quotes Psalm 44:22: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  This does certainly not sound safe.  Yet, what makes Paul’s words especially poignant at a time like this are their context.  Paul begins by asking:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  (Romans 8:35-37)

Even the sword of a Roman soldier – and, yes, even the bullet from an assailant’s rifle – cannot separate us from the love of Christ.  We are, Paul says, more than conquerors of those things because Christ loves us through those things.

Jesus once said, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4).  A shooter at a church in Sutherland Springs killed some bodies – but he can do no more.  So, we should not be afraid.  Why?  Because there was a moment in history when instead of a mass murderer mowing down dozens of people with an assault rifle, a mass of murderers brutally executed one man on a cross.  But their murder didn’t take.  Because three days later, He came back.  The murders of the congregants at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs won’t take either.  Because one day – on the Last Day – these worshipers will come back when the One who once rose Himself will return to raise them – and us.

The worship service that those congregants were participating in yesterday morning at 11:30 – singing God’s praises and hearing God’s Word – didn’t end when a gunman opened fire and the victims drew their final breaths.  It just moved.  It just moved to a place around a throne where there sits a Lamb of God who takes away every sin by His death and grants eternal life by His life.  And one day, we’ll join them around that same throne.  May that day come quickly.

Maranatha.

November 6, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Human Smuggling Comes to San Antonio

San Antonio Walmart Smuggling

Credit: CNN

I first heard about the tractor trailer packed with people in a Wal-Mart parking lot on my city’s south side when a friend sent me a link to a news story as I was preparing for worship a week ago.  As the story unfolded over this past week, the details that have emerged have been grisly.  Up to 200 illegal immigrants may have been crammed into the back of the truck without food, water, or refrigeration as temperatures in south Texas topped 100 degrees.  Ten people died.  Thirty others had to be hospitalized.  Some suffered serious brain damage.  The driver of the truck, James Bradley, told investigators he did not know there were immigrants inside the back of the truck he was driving.  The evidence, however, points to a conclusion that he did.  He has been charged with knowingly transporting illegal immigrants.

Human smuggling is a crime.  What has happened here breaks immigration law and ought to be – and, in fact, is being – treated as a crime. But, of course, there is more to this story than just the legal concerns it raises, for what has happened here is also a terrible assault on human dignity.  People are not commodities to be smuggled, bought, or sold, even if they can be enticed by promises of a better life.  Indeed, one of the people in the back of the truck to San Antonio was from Aguascalientes and paid $5,500 to escape Mexico.  He was willing to pay a steep fee for a long shot at a new life.  And those who transported him were all too willing to take as much money as they could from him, while at the same time recklessly endangering his life.

In the New Testament, Paul writes a letter to a slaveholder named Philemon whose slave, Onesimus, had run away to find asylum with the apostle.  Paul pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus back “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”  Paul then adds, “He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, but as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 16).  Paul, by how he assumes Philemon regards Onesimus, seeks to persuade Philemon that Onesimus is not a commodity to be recouped, but a human created by God to be loved and respected.

Philosophically, the Declaration of Independence echoes this view that human beings are to be treated with dignity when its drafters write that “all men are created equal,” and, as a necessary entailment of this, are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The framers of the Declaration insist that no person can be commoditized and stripped of their dignity because every person is created by God and is therefore worthy of respect.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska notes that, although this claim about human dignity is popularly enshrined in an American document, this is a value that should be embraced across humanity.  Senator Sasse explains:

The American idea is that God gives us rights … I think that the distinction we do well to clarify is that the American founding is a truth claim of all 7 billion people on the earth. We believe everyone is created with dignity.

In a tractor trailer that traveled to a Wal-Mart parking lot on the south side of San Antonio, this value was disregarded.  And for that, there must be an accounting.  Human life is just too precious to demand anything less.

July 31, 2017 at 5:15 am 2 comments

San Antonio’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Alamo 1Recently, there has been a lot of debate and discussion concerning a proposed amendment to San Antonio’s anti-discrimination ordinance on which the City Council will soon vote.  You can read about the debate here.  Because this ordinance has certain theological implications, Concordia’s senior pastor, Bill Tucker, has prepared a letter outlining some of the facets and possible effects of this ordinance.  I would encourage you to take a moment to read his letter below.

Dear Concordia Family,

The apostle Paul writes, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2a).  This is a time for us as a congregation to be in prayer for those in authority – specifically, for those in authority on our San Antonio City Council.

San Antonio’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Our City Council is currently considering amending its anti-discrimination ordinance to include a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of, among other things, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The ordinance defines discrimination as demonstrating “a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons, or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability.”  Many Jews, Muslims, and Christians have long considered homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, and transgender lifestyles to be “sinful.” Such a designation may now be considered discriminatory according to the definition of bias given in this ordinance.  Thus, an ordinance meant to prohibit discrimination may set up a de facto form of discrimination against some people of faith because it may preclude people with certain religious beliefs from serving the City.

How Will This Ordinance Affect You?

  • Bias:  Pastors or other people of faith who discuss whether or not certain behaviors are “sinful” may be considered to be engaging in discrimination according to the definition of “bias” given in this ordinance.  Such accusations of discrimination may affect both our ability to speak God’s truth in love and our freedoms of speech, religion, and association.
  • Public Accommodations:  If you are a business owner who has rental property, restaurants, hotels, or theatres, you may be compelled by this ordinance to violate your conscience and not operate the business according to your religious convictions.
  • Appointments and Contracts with the City:  A person may not be appointed to a position with the City if he or she is perceived to have a bias against those of a homosexual or transgender orientation and can be removed from office even if previously appointed.  A person may also be precluded from contracting with the City if that person is perceived to have a bias against any group named in the ordinance.

Actions to Consider

Finally, I encourage you to remember how Paul concludes his statement to Timothy on praying for those in authority:  “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Paul’s call to prayer is meant not only to affect our City officials; it is meant to affect us.  It is meant to move us toward peace in times of tribulation and form in us a humble godliness, shaped by love, as a holy witness to a world filled with sin.  It is meant, in a phrase, to lead us to “shine like stars.”  May we, at Concordia, be people who do exactly this.

God bless you,
bill_tucker_bw
Bill Tucker
Senior Pastor
Concordia Lutheran Church

July 31, 2013 at 7:11 am 1 comment

An Important Note on Children’s Safety

Danger 1

This note went out from Concordia’s Senior Pastor, Bill Tucker, to all of Concordia’s day school and child care parents.  Whether or not you have a child in one of our ministries, please take a moment to read this note and consider what conversations you may need to have with your children, especially if you live in the San Antonio area.

Dear Concordia Parents,

Yesterday morning in the Hollywood Park neighborhood, a young boy was waiting for a bus when a man in a white cargo-type van without side windows pulled up to the boy’s bus stop and tried to lure him inside.  When the boy ran to tell his father, the van sped away.  One of our own member’s children was similarly approached by a man in a white van, but when this child’s mother saw what was happening and began to move toward the van, it again sped off.

Instances like these are certainly disturbing.  This is why I wanted to send you a note so that you could, first, be aware of this urgent news story and, second, take a moment to talk to your children about how strangers can mean danger.

If you would, allow me to share a few thoughts on talking to your children about staying safe outside while waiting for a bus, playing, or any other scenario where you, as parents, may not be immediately present.  You can remind your children:

  • Never to go anywhere without consulting you first.
  • That dangerous people do not always look mean or scary.
  • Never to get close to a stranger and to make sure they have plenty of room to run from a stranger.
  • Never to help a stranger look for a lost pet or play a game.
  • Never to get into a vehicle with someone they do not know.
  • Never to share their name or address with someone they do not know.
  • About “safe places” such as police and fire stations, the library, a store, or a friend’s house.  These are places kids can go for help!
  • That if a stranger grabs them, they need to yell loudly and shout, “I don’t know you!”
  • That they can call 911 in case of an emergency.

I share these thoughts with you not to alarm you, but to remind you of all the different things you can do to help keep your children safe.  You can find additional resources on keeping your kids safe at take25.org and safelyeverafter.com.  Please be assured that, when your children are on Concordia’s campus, we do everything in our power to try to ensure your children’s safety and well-being.  Your children’s safety is our number one priority.

If you have any information on the news story cited above, please contact the Hollywood Park Police at (210) 494-3575, extension 236.  Remember that in an uncertain and sometimes frightening world, our God promises that He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

God bless you!
bill_tucker_bw
Bill Tucker
Senior Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church
friartuc@concordia-satx.com

April 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Cherry Picking Scripture

I had to chuckle as I was watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention last week.  I tuned in to see San Antonio’s mayor, Julian Castro, deliver the Convention’s keynote speech, which is quite an honor no matter what your political persuasion.  But what made me chuckle were not the speeches at the Convention, but the political pundits pontificating on the state of our nation between speeches.  I began watching the coverage that evening by tuning into a liberal-leaning news channel.  They asked a question that has become ubiquitous in political circles every time a presidential election rolls around:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  One of their correspondents trotted out a chart that included numbers for jobs created and the state of the Standard & Poor’s index and confidently concluded, “Yes.  We are better off than we were four years ago.”  I then flipped over to a conservative-leaning news channel.  Interestingly, the pundits on this channel were debating this same question:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  But my mouth dropped open when they too trotted out a chart with numbers on unemployment and the national debt and confidently concluded, “No.  We are not better off than we were four years ago.”  Apparently, whether you believe we are better off than we were four years ago depends on which numbers you look at – or which numbers you want to look at.

I am not surprised when politicians and the politically minded cherry pick the facts and figures which bolster their particular partisan position.  But it disturbs me when Christians do the same thing – especially with the Word of God.

In Acts 20, Paul is leaving the church in Ephesus which he had planted and subsequently served for three years as its pastor in order to journey to Jerusalem at the Holy Spirit’s behest.  One of the things that Paul touts about his ministry to the Ephesians is that he “did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  In other words, when Paul served the Ephesians, he didn’t cherry pick his favorite Bible verses or stories, nor did he selectively or subversively read the Scriptures in an effort to bolster a particular partisan theological platform.  Instead, he courageously declared the Word of God – all of the Word of God.

Part of the reason Paul prided himself on proclaiming all of the Word of God has to do with Paul’s belief concerning the nature and character of Scripture.  For Paul believed that all of Scripture comes from God and therefore all of Scripture is worthy of our attention, study, and application.  As Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  All Scripture is useful, Paul declares.  There is not a book, a verse, a word, or, to use Jesus’ description, even “a jot or a tittle” (cf. Matthew 5:18, KJV), which is not useful for us to know and take to heart.

The other day, I came across a blog titled, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today.”[1]  In this post, the author recounts a conversation he had with a PhD scientist who, though he was a Christian, saw no need to for believers to concern themselves with Leviticus, or with any other part of the Pentateuch for that matter.  After all, what could modern-day people possibly learn from a book that covers the eating of shellfish, the wearing of polyester, and the donning of tattoos?  Not much, in this guy’s mind.  But this blogger went on to do a terrific job arguing for the relevance – and, more importantly, for the divine inspiration – of this book.  He notes that the credo of Leviticus, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), is still the preeminent model for Christian sanctification.  In our acting, speaking, and thinking, we are to reflect the God in whom we trust.  Indeed, Jesus Himself affirms this holiness credo when He declares, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  More vitally, this blogger notes that the sacrificial system of Leviticus is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Without Leviticus, our understanding of Christ’s sacrifice would be significantly diminished, for the whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to lead to and find its telos in Christ’s supreme and final sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 10:1-12).  In other words, the whole point of Leviticus, though it was written some 1400 years before Jesus, was to point people to Jesus.  And anything that points people to Jesus is something a Christian should want to know about.

Leviticus is just one example of the theological richness that Scripture has to offer – if we will only take the time to look.  If you choose cherry pick from Scripture, however, you will miss so much of what Scripture is and what Scripture gives.  So devote yourself to Scripture – all Scripture.  You never know what you will find, how you will be changed, and how your faith will grow.


[1] Scott Fillmer, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today,” scottfillmer.com (8.21.2012).

September 10, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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