I have a heart full of longings and heartache and passion for good work that must MUST be done. But lately, words fail me.
This week my pastor friend John asked me to write some prayers for our community to wrestle and weep through this Sunday. I love participating in our church this way, but I struggled to capture the intensity and urgency and shock of things revealed this week. Writing is usually my refuge, the space where my heart spills out faster than my fingers can type, making clearer sense of the swirling chaos in my mind. Not this week. Instead, I found myself staring at quotes and scripture and hymns and prayers of saints across time, cursor blinking back at me, unable to tie it all together. After a few days of halfhearted attempts I finally assembled something coherent but unsatisfying and walked away. The weariness of this week had robbed me of hope. Prayer especially felt foolish and useless in the face of such desperation and fear.
But then this morning when I stood at a podium before a gathering of people leaning into their grief and fears together, I was overcome with emotion. I was reading the not-good-enough words aloud and believing them, intensely. I felt what I haven’t felt in many years, the mystery of the presence of something supernatural. The force of Love. It was powerful and unexpected and beautiful.
I’m still lamenting. Weeping for the fear and the anger and the hurt in my community and in the communities around our country. There is work to be done. It must start with listening to the laments of others. But I will carry this small flame of hope with me. This flicker of belief that though things are not as they should be, they will not always be this way. This quote from Martin Luther King Jr, shared today by our pastor, is exactly my hope in these wearying weeks of power and domination.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
And so we start with prayer.
Emmanuel. God-with-us. We kneel before you, a people worn through with the weight of this week. And so together as your body we pray for our country and for president-elect Trump. We see in our own community both celebration and fear as we consider the future under his leadership. Will you grant him all the wisdom and restraint and grace he needs to lead our country in the way of peace? We pray you will convict him to speak against the acts of violence done in his name. We ask you to stir within his conscience the weight and consequences of his casual attitude towards racism, sexual assault, and bigotry of all kinds. We also pray for help to see these same sins in our own hearts.
Lord in your mercy.
All: Hear our prayers
We pray for the Church in the United States, part of the body of Christ on earth, that it may be a voice of peace, a light of love, working for unity and for justice. It is hard for us to pursue peace when anger and fear are close at hand. We ask that you will create in us hearts that long for understanding with those we disagree with most that we may be agents of reconciliation in this fractured world.
Lord, in your mercy
All: Hear our prayers
Holy creator and redeemer, would you show us our own complicity in injustice? Convict us for our indifference. Forgive us for when we have remained silent. Lord, help us to see that without unity and solidarity very little can be accomplished as we strive for racial harmony and economic justice. As your children, we are in this together.
Lord, in your mercy.
All: Hear our prayer.
God of love, open our eyes to see the suffering of all our sisters and brothers. God of justice, open our ears to hear those who cry out. God of healing, open our hearts to acknowledge and share our own pain and the pain of others. In the power of the Spirit, let us know the truth, and may the truth set us free from all bondage and blindness.
Things are topsy-turvey in your kingdom, God. The poor bear gifts of great worth, the dead rise, the meek inherit the earth. Teach us how to live in an upside-down world where we are called to welcome the outcast, prepare a feast for the ragged, and forgive those who offend us.
We look to you for hope in all these things. Thank you for hearing our prayers.