A Holy Week message from Bishop Johnson

April 03, 2023


Recently the Central Square Congregational Church (UCC) of Bridgewater, MA, put a display of empty chairs on its front lawn spelling out the word “E-N-O-U-G-H.” 

As we hear of yet another horrific mass shooting in this country, this simple and poignant message rings true in my heart and I am sure yours as well. This time it is a school in Nashville. There have been more than 100 mass shootings so far this year in our country. That is a staggering number, but each comes as a shock — and a horror. This almost everyday occurrence of assault rifle violence increases our sense of fear, hopelessness, and frustration.  

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

We have prayed, we have written to our lawmakers about gun laws and background checks, we have called for greater accessibility to mental health services, we have declared our churches “gun-free zones.” Still it appears that these horrific acts of violence are on the rise.  

As we approach Holy Week, during which we walk the Via Dolorosa with the Lord of love once again, his brutal execution at the hands of religious and secular authorities shows me that humankind has long turned to violence and cruelty as its answer to disagreements, hatred, and threats to the powers that be. This is nothing new, but we cannot be given to despair and lose hope.

In his death, Jesus calls us to a better way: The way of love for our enemy, the way of sacrifice to foster peace-making, the way of forgiveness as the path to freedom from the personal bondage of hatred.  

In his resurrection there comes the ultimate hope for the day when swords will become plowshares and spears will turn into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). His bodily resurrection is just a part of the full restoration of peace for all people and all of creation. Believe this, no matter how long the wait.

As Easter people we still need to be working together with God to make a better day now.  So, start with yourself. Where are you harboring hatred for people? How does your criticism and negativity against one of your siblings foment violence?  Jesus said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council and whoever says, ‘you fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22)

Teach peace in your churches’ communities by instructing people about how to resolve differences and conflicts in restorative ways rather than with division and retaliation. 

Take political action as you can. Our democracy calls on all of us to speak out for justice and laws that promote safety and health for all. If you do nothing, you are complicit in the continued wave of violence. Believe in the power of one voice. Remember that the faithful actions many have already taken and continue to take have made a difference. 

New England Annual Conference, I rejoice in your faithful witness and pray for you as you journey on this Holy Season. Shout from the roof tops “Enough” and then follow the footsteps of Jesus in bringing life and reconciliation to this world.

Photo courtesy of Central Square Congregational Church