A Prayer in the Face of Gun Violence

In the face of another act of gun violence, James Martin, S.J. has shared a prayer that I find useful. I’m reprinting it here so that you can read it without the interruptions that appear on the original site.

Almighty God,

I come before you,
once again,
after another shooting.
I am sad, God.

So I ask you
to receive into your loving care the souls of those who were killed,
to care for those who were wounded or hurt in any way,
to console the family members and friends of those who died or were wounded,
to strengthen the hands of the rescue workers, medical professionals and caregivers

I pray too for the shooter, as I must as a Christian.

All this makes me inexpressibly sad, God.
But I know that the sadness I feel is your sadness.
It is the same sadness your son expressed
when he wept over the death of
his friend Lazarus.

I am tired, God.
I’m tired of the unwillingness to see this as an important issue.
I’m tired of those in power who work to prevent any real change.
I’m tired of those who say that gun violence can’t be reduced.

All this makes me tired.
But I know that the tiredness I feel is your tiredness.
It’s the same tiredness that Jesus felt after his own struggles against injustice
that led him to fall asleep on the boat with his disciples.

I am angry, God.
I’m angry at the seeming powerlessness of our community to prevent this.
I’m angry at the selfish financial interests who block change.
I’m angry that these shootings happen at all.

But I know that this anger is your anger
It’s the same anger Jesus felt when he overturned the tables in the Temple,
angry that anyone would be taken advantage of in any way.

Help me see in these emotions your own desire for change.
Help me see in these feelings as the way that you move me to act.
Help me see in my reactions your pushing me to do something.

Because I know this is the way you move people to action.
And I know that you desire action.
For Jesus did not stand by while people were being hurt.
He plunged into their lives.

So help me to answer these questions:
How can I help?
How can I fight against gun violence?
How can I urge my political leaders to enact change?
How can I help people understand that this is
an issue about life?

I am sad over the loss of life,
tired of excuses for the loss of life,
and angry that we are paralyzed by the loss of life.

So

Turn my sadness into compassion.
Turn my tiredness into advocacy.
Turn my paralysis into the freedom to act.

Help me
to be compassionate,
to advocate
and to act,
as your son did,
Almighty God. [1]

Amen.


[1] James Martin, S.J., “Sad, Tired and Angry: A Prayer in the Face of Gun Violence,” America Magazine, October 02, 2017, accessed October 02, 2017, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/10/02/sad-tired-and-angry-prayer-face-gun-violence.

Two More Things to Pray for this Morning

Two concerns to add to your prayer list this morning:

  1. The mass shooting in Las Vegas. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray that we as a nation might find the political will to make this mass shooting the last.
  2. Congress has allowed “the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has reduced the uninsured rate among kids to 5% from 14% over the two decades of its existence” to expire. Pray for the children. [1]

[1] Lesley, Bruce. “Congress Just Blew a Chance to save Healthcare for 9 Million Children.” Los Angeles Times. Accessed October 02, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-chip-funding-20170929-story.html.

Heaven Will Work Backwards

In my sermon this Sunday, I quoted a passage that C. S. Lewis. He had placed the words in the mouth of one of his heroes, George MacDonald, in The Great Divorce, a work of fiction about the life to come. Below is a more complete version of that quote:

‘Son,’ he said, ‘ye cannot in your present state understand eternity … But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. … That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’ — C. S. Lewis


C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1945), Chapter 9.

Puerto Rico and UMCOR

The bad news is that reports from Puerto Rico are growing increasingly dire. The good news is that UMCOR (and other agencies) are on it. Like Texas and Florida, Puerto Rico (though not a state) is part of the United States and Puerto Ricans are United States Citizens (I mention this because only about 50 percent of those of us in the states are aware of it). I would ask you to remember Puerto Rico (and other countries as well) when you pray for Texas and Florida.

The National Anthem Brouhaha, Part 2

A friend and clergy college of mine, Heather Hensarling, wrote the following as an introduction when she shared my post from yesterday. I want to share the meat of it with you. I especially want to share the sentiment of “No judgment here, folks. I promise.”

I first met my friend, Reverend John Collins, at Licensing School in York, NE, 1994. … I’m sharing his blog on The National Anthem Brouhaha (always wondered how to spell that word). It strikes at the heart of what I’ve been feeling as I witness the amount of angry energy church members exert over “a game player” taking a knee during the National Anthem…yet somehow feel no amount of loyalty themselves to remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. I.e., come to church. I’m not thinking of anyone in particular. I’m thinking of everyone in general who call themselves followers of Jesus, yet somehow muster up more energy about taking a knee on NFL game day than they do about taking a seat on Sunday. No judgment here, folks. I promise. The only shoes I walk in are my own. Just curious, that’s all. …

The National Anthem Brouhaha

I’m feeling prophetic this morning, and that means that there’s a pretty good chance that what follows is going to offend someone. To avoid possible confusion, let me state at the outset that I’m not writing to argue against standing for the national anthem, I’m writing to argue for weekly worship attendance. I welcome your feedback via email, a phone call, or a face to face conversation.

The current brouhaha over standing or not standing for the national anthem at the beginning of a for-profit sporting event has left me slightly bemused. Here’s why.

I think that there is an analogy to be drawn between the singing of the national anthem at the beginning of a sporting event and the weekly service of worship at the beginning of the week (remember the New Testament refers to Sunday as the first day of the week), but it is an unequal analogy. What I mean by an unequal analogy is this: whatever honor and respect we owe to the country in which we live pales in comparison to the honor and respect we owe the Almighty. After all, it is God who formed the earth upon which we live, the air that we breathe, and without whose continuous grace all that exists would cease to be.

The extent to which many people have gotten upset over the fact that a few professional athletes are refusing to stand for the national anthem is surprising when you consider how everyone takes it in stride when a much larger percentage of the population stays away from the weekly worship service. My country has given me a great many things; my God has given me even more and without the God who made all that is, my country would have nothing to offer me. Any argument that can be made for the importance of standing for the national anthem can be made even more forcefully for attending worship. But despite that fact, we get very upset about any neglect of the first no matter what the reason while being sanguine about the most flagrant violations of the second for any old reason at all.

Obviously, we cannot coerce sincere faith in God by mandating weekly worship attendance any more than we can coerce true allegiance to our country by making everyone stand for the national anthem, but shame on us for being so concerned about the latter and so untroubled about the former. It’s almost a textbook case of idolatry. May God have mercy on us.


Please do not confuse my failure to discuss the reasons for taking a knee for indifference to them. Regardless of the efficacy of their protest, I consider the matters of injustice given by those taking a knee to be of grave concern.

John Wesley on Reading

In honor of our Breakfast Club gathering this morning, I wanted to share the following quote from John Wesley:

It cannot be that the people should grow in grace, unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people. — John Wesley [1]

Now I know that not everyone is a reader, but note that Wesley says “the people,” “a reading people,” and “a knowing people.” All of these terms refer to a group of people. Don’t worry if you’re not a reader, other members of your congregation have you covered, simply do what you can and be attentive to the other means of grace.


[1] John Wesley in an unpublished letter dated November 8, 1790. As quoted by L. Tyerman, The Life and times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., Founder of the Methodists (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1871), 632. Found online at books.google.com.