You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
This weekend, my eldest son gets married to the love of his life. He is the first of our boys to marry, so my wife told me she had to get a new dress and my suit, which is 30 years old, just won't do!
I struggle to articulate the joy I feel about this marriage.
The promise of a life together for these two lovers seems all the more special, in light of the Christchurch killings. Many of my extended family will be travelling down from Christchurch to Dunedin for the wedding and are still trying to make sense of the violence of March 15, 2019, in their city.
Where does the violence of the human heart come from?
My brother, a retired policeman with 40 years of service, made the following comment to me: "I think the stress and upset is actually greater than the earthquakes, as this was pure evil. The quakes didn't target anyone. They were natural disasters. This is human hatred."
How do we make sense of the killing of 50 Muslims in Christchurch on that black Friday three weeks ago? In the two weeks before this atrocity in our land, at least 120 people were killed in Northern Nigeria.
On Monday, March 11, more than 50 Christians were killed and 140 homes destroyed by Fulani militants in the state of Kaduna, Nigeria.
These lives matter to God just as much as ours do.
How do we make sense of the brutal murder of Muslims and Christians at home and abroad?
Is this a religious battle or is it something deeper?
How do we make sense of the violence in the human heart?
Much has been made of the political motivations of the Christchurch murder accused, a self-defined "eco-fascist" (whatever that means). Elsewhere, he is defined as a right-wing racist, but someone influenced by European paganism, communism and anarchism, who wrote positively of the current Chinese communist Government. But political motivation does not get to the bottom of this evil.
Psychologists have weighed into the debate. They suggest that hatred, racism and fear of others has been fuelled by something in this man's journey.
The finger has been pointed at the gun club in Milton he was a part of, and the suicide of his father at age 49 as playing a part in this violence.
Ultimately the search for meaning and rational answers to wickedness and evil is a fruitless search. A deeper spiritual quest is required.
The Bible speaks a lot about violence.
From the earliest pages of Genesis we find Cain murdering his brother Abel over a perceived injustice from the hand of God. We find a young Moses murdering an Egyptian; we read of King David conspiring to have the husband of his mistress killed in battle.
Even in the New Testament we find Saul approving of the death of Stephen and the last book of Scripture describing end times of "great violence".
In two week's time, Christians in Dunedin, Christchurch and around the globe will be remembering another act of violence that defines our faith.
Jesus was nailed to the cross at Calvary.
Scripture tells us that this violence was God's plan to rescue humanity, bringing forgiveness and freedom from angry, rebellious and evil hearts which destroy so much of what is good.
Some of you will consider this foolishness. "How can one man's death overcome evil?"
But for others, the words of Jesus, God's Son, as he hung on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing", is the entry point through faith for exchanging our hardened and evil hearts and minds for those that are shaped by love, compassion and even mercy.
There is much for us to grieve about in the wake of the Christchurch killings.
Thousands of lives have been forever changed. There is also much that our country can be thankful for: the way our community has come together; the way our leaders have carried themselves; the way different faith communities have reached out to one another.
Tomorrow, as my family celebrates our wedding together, it will be with joy and hope in our hearts.
A new family will be born in God's love with all the promise of new beginnings and new life.
The plans of the wicked will not divert the plans of God.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
- Stu Crosson is senior minister of Hope Church, Dunedin.