Today was a rare Sunday morning for me in that I was not responsible for the sermon. We have many gifted preachers in our small congregation (I am so glad for this!) and we try to use them as often as we can. So, today I was able to participate in worship in a way that felt different than usual. There were still a few public duties—I read the gospel text from Luke, I led the congregational prayer—but mostly it was a day for receiving rather giving. It was a very good morning.
It was also, obviously, a difficult morning for many as we continue to process the events of this past Friday in Connecticut. The Israelite exiles famously wondered how they could sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land and we, too, find it difficult to hear and to sing words of hope, words of a God who brings light and life when our ears and our eyes are still tuned to the cruelty and violence of our world. I have prayed publicly a few times after these kinds of tragedies, but it never gets any easier. Every sentence seems hollow and false before I am finished writing it. And as I mentioned in the previous post, words seem like very meagre offerings indeed when confronted with the enormity of human pain.
But pray we must, and pray I did today. I have received a few questions/comments/kind affirmations about the prayer since so I thought I would post it here. It seems such a strange thing that words—these bursts of sound, these little markings on a page or a screen—could have any effect whatsoever on people as they move about the flesh and blood world of joy and sorrow and everything in between. But they can, apparently, and they do. Perhaps this collection of little markings on a screen will be of some use to others as we all continue to think and pray and groan our way through yet another grim reminder of the darkness that remains while we await the full and final light of Christ’s coming.
Sovereign Lord, there are days when it is easy and natural to come to you in prayer… to bring your our joy and worship, to lay our lives before you, and to seek your will.
But there are other days when it is hard to pray. Days when the evil of the world seems almost too much to bear. Days when your apparent silence in the face of such monstrous atrocities—the murder of little children—is too loud and dissonant.
On this Sunday—a Sunday when we have heard Zephaniah’s words about a day when God’s people will no longer fear disaster—disaster rolls across our front pages and screams from our screens.
God of mercy and healing, we pray for the many families in Connecticut who have been shattered by a morning of unspeakable violence. We don’t quite know what to pray because all our words seem so hollow… We groan with them.
We pray that somehow, that you would bind their wounds, that you would carry them along with the hope of resurrection.
Christ, have mercy.
God, we often hear rhetoric about making sure that “nothing like this will ever happen again.” But we have this aching sense that something like this will happen again.
We rehearse the places and the scenes in our minds… Columbine… Montreal… Dunblane, Scotland… Virginia Tech… Utøya, Norway… Winnenden, Germany… Taber, AB….
So much human loss.
We know that, right now, plans for harm and destruction are being hatched by troubled and darkened minds. We look ahead and we cannot help but see that in a matter of months or years or decades, in a different time and place, there will be another story like this.
We know that the groaning of our sin-soaked world will continue.
And so, with much fear and trembling, we pray for the next Adam Lanza today. We do not pray for such people because we want to. We would rather not even think about them, much less pray for them. These people make us angry and confused and afraid. We do not like to think about what and where and to whom the next instance of such evil will come. We cannot understand how human beings can do such things. Our hearts hurt for the indescribable pain their actions cause. And, if we are honest, we long to see such people suffer for what they have done and will do.
But we pray for these people today anyway, not because we want to—God, we don’t want to!—but because you told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. We pray for these people because of your example in praying for those who, in their confusion and blind rage and sin and stupidity, nailed you to a cross.
We pray that somehow, in some way, you would break through the evil that human beings choose and cherish, and intervene for the sake of life.
Jesus, when you approached the city of Jerusalem, you wept. You wept for those incapable of recognizing the things that make for peace. The way of peace was “hidden from their eyes” and it remains hidden, ignored, misunderstood, and mocked today. We continue to reject the way of peace.
We entertain ourselves with violence, we glorify it in our sports, in our movies, in our advertising. We celebrate the use of force and domination and conquest at every turn, and then we stagger and stumble in bewildered confusion when it shows up in the real world.
The way of peace remains hidden to us.
Christ, have mercy. Unblind our eyes.
We offer these prayers to you, the God of all comfort, the author of the story of this world, the healer of our wounds, the murdered and risen Lord of light and life, our Prince of Peace.