“We Pray to You Only Because We Do not Know What Else to Do”
Like many this afternoon, I am staring blankly at a screen, my eyes numbly moving across words and images of the horrifying scenes from Connecticut today. There are no words, and yet we somehow need words. I need words. Words to make sense? As if that were possible… Words to explain or justify or bring meaning? No, not that… never that… Words to express anger and sadness and fear and confusion… Words to express that we somehow, in some way hurt deeply for these parents who have lost their children, for these students who have lost their friends and teachers, for these families who have been ripped apart, for these precious little lives so cruelly snatched away, for a world still so painfully soaked in violence and inhumanity? Yes, I suppose… something like that…
Words seem so utterly useless in the face of such tragedy and evil, but I guess sometimes they are all that we have. This afternoon, I am reading—and praying—this prayer written by Walter Brueggemann after another school shooting in another time and another place. I don’t know if these words are “appropriate” for a day like today or not. I don’t even know if there could be such a thing. I do know that they express something of how and what I am feeling for/about a group of strangers across the continent today, whose pain is quite literally more than I can imagine.
Another brutality, another school killing, another grief beyond telling… and loss… in Colorado, in Wisconsin, among the Amish in Virginia Where next? We are reduced to weeping silence, even as we breed a violent culture, even as we kill the sons and daughters of our “enemies,” even as we fail to live and cherish and respect the forgotten of our common life. There is no joy among us as we empty our schoolhouses; there is no health among us as we move in fear and bottomless anxiety; there is little hope among us as we fall helpless before the gunshot and the shriek and the blood and the panic; we pray to you only because we do not know what else to do. So we pray, move powerfully in our body politic, move us toward peaceableness that does not hurt or want to kill. move us toward justice that the troubled and the forgotten may know mercy, move us toward forgiveness that we may escape the trap of revenge. Empower us to turn our weapons to acts of mercy, to turn our missiles to gestures of friendship, to turn our bombs to policies of reconciliation; and while we are turning, hear our sadness, our loss, our bitterness. We dare to pray our needfulness to you because you have been there on that gray Friday, and watched your own Son be murdered for “reasons of state.” Good God, do Easter! Here and among these families, here and in all our places of brutality. Move our Easter grief now… without too much innocence— to your Sunday joy. We pray in the one crucified and risen who is our Lord and Savior.