By S. Thomas Kincaid, III
When police officers are targeted, it is an attack on each of us who rely upon their daily service to keep our lives orderly, productive, and safe. There is a real sense that what unfolded downtown last night is an attack on each of us that threatens our very day-to-day lives in our homes, at work, where our kids go, and all the rest of what we do.
The question often asked by faithful folks is, how do we know that God is still here? It’s a different question than why does this happen. To be honest, why it happens is perhaps easier: The Bible makes no bones about it. The world is a sinful and broken place, so badly broken, that God had to send his son who suffered and died to save it. Sin still has its day until Christ comes back.
But in this time, while we await that final day where violence and hate will no longer have their say in the world, how do we know God is still here?
Last night, I was out for drinks with a friend who, as it would happen, works in law enforcement. We were in Preston Center, I live in east Dallas, and I took the slingshot route home — where you go south down the Tollway, slingshot your way on the north side of downtown on Woodall Rogers, and then back up Central. I’d heard there was an incident unfolding downtown, and as I drove by, you could see from Woodall that something serious was happening.
It turns out that just before I’d passed by, there had been police officers who had been protecting a protest. As it would happen, the protest was against police brutality, but reports indicate the officers and protesters were getting along quite well respecting one another’s roles as we work out the difficult issues facing our country.
And then, as the shooting started, and protesters grabbed their kids and ran for cover, police officers ran at the bullets. Doing exactly what we count on them to do each and every day, they ran toward their own danger, and for some, their own death.
How do we know that God is still here? Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
How do we know that God is still here? Because when bullets started raining down from above, some people ran at those bullets laying down their lives for friends they didn’t even know they had.
Like many of you, I grew up in this city. Dallas, with all its warts, pains, and brokenness, is my city. My first job was downtown; I saw on the news police officers hunkered down where I used to meet my dad that summer so we could figure out where to go to lunch. This one happened here.
But that is not the whole story of what happened here last night. We saw God show up in the midst of brokenness. Dallas Police Chief David Brown put it this way this morning: “I’ve never been more proud of being a police officer … Seeing the courage … and … grit to stay on the scene, looking for suspects, knowing that we are vulnerable.” And, if that wasn’t enough, one of the protesters who was injured was a mother who was putting her body in between the gun and her child.
Living in this time, in between the times, between Christ’s first coming and his last, we live in conflict. It is always a mix of evil and good, always a mix of sin and forgiveness, always a mix of cross and resurrection. We see God — and we know he is here — when we see one another bridge the gap as Christ did on the Cross. When we see one another sacrificially stretch between sin and forgiveness, between evil and good, between cross and resurrection, then we see Jesus alive in the world.
And that is the bigger story. There is a temptation to let the tension of this day’s evil rule the story of our lives. But those of us here know that evil’s days are numbered, and that in the sacrifices we make for each other, we see the promise of God’s victory and evil’s end.
This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
There are surely more sons of God to be revealed before he comes back, but while we slept last night, five of them made themselves known.
The Rev. S. Thomas Kincaid, III is vice rector of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, where this sermon was preached on July 8, 2016. The night before, a gunman shot and killed five police officers, and wounded many other people.