It has been a heartrending week in our country. We’ve seen threats of nuclear war; terrible violence and hatred displayed by the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville; and most recently, the smashed glass of the Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston. During the church year, we would have gathered together this past Sunday to worship, pray, lift our voices in lament, and look to one another and God for wisdom and courage. Although we are not together physically, we are powerfully linked by the Spirit, and I invite us all into a moment of collective reflection and prayer.
As a church, we seek to follow Jesus, who invites all to the table – especially the marginalized and oppressed – and who makes no exceptions when he tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. At the Union Church, we embrace and seek to live out these values as a welcoming, inclusive, and mission-minded congregation. The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ said it beautifully during a prayer service in Charlottesville last Friday: “Faith calls us to see the humanity in one another. The Christian scriptures call us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus says that even our enemies are our neighbors. That is the kind of radical, unconditional love that we are called to live out as people of faith towards one another.” Racism and anti-Semitism in all their forms (overt, like we saw this weekend; and embedded in our institutions and cultures) stand against Love, and we are called to name these forces of hatred and evil when we see them – as we did so terribly in Charlottesville – condemn them, and work to overcome them.
These are stormy times, and, following Jesus, we may be called into even stormier waters in the weeks and months ahead – but we need not fear. Love wins, even in the stormiest seas, and even when it looks like the violence of the cross is the end of the story. May we all boldly and courageous pray, discern, listen, speak and act on behalf of Love in these days, and as we look forward to gathering together again in September.
With the Love of God and the Peace of Christ,
P.S. Perhaps some of you, like me, have also had difficult conversations with your children about the events of the week. I’ve found articles like THIS ONE contain helpful reminders, coupled with sharing how my faith shapes how I am seeing and responding to the news. For those interested in exploring issues of race and justice, the UCC also offers THESE RESOURCES for parents and families. These are hard conversations to have. I hold you in my prayers, and am always here if it would help to talk ([email protected]; cell: 617-938-8112).
Presbyterian Pastor Jill Duffield, who lives in Charlottesville, wrote this prayer after participating, along with other clergy, in a call for love, not hate, in her city.
Sweet Jesus, what has happened to your beloved world? What darkness is on the loose when those who hate their neighbors pray in your name and ask for your blessing?
You have told us, O Lord, what is good: to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with you, and yet there are those among us who wield machine guns to intimidate and chant vitriolic rhetoric to terrorize, and ram cars intentionally into crowds to kill.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
We have no hope save in you. We have no hope to stop the violence and stem the racism and cease the destruction, save in you. Save us now.
Prince of peace, you tell us to pray for those who persecute us and love our enemies, but right now, in this moment, those prayers are not readily on our lips. Help us. Intercede for us.
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you even if, in this moment, they are colored with anger and weariness and questions about your presence during the storm.
What next, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, when we are right in the middle of the chaos and the killing and the carnage? We know that justice will roll down like water and that crying and death will be no more someday, but we need to know what to do this very day.
This very day you have made. Creator God, Living God, God of the new thing, the very good thing, show us where to be and what do to and how to be the light and the salt and the leaven and the love you call us to be.
Precious Lord, take our hands, lead us home to the place you prepared for us and give us rest. Put us beside still waters and overflow our cups with grace upon grace until it spills into the streets and washes away the evil in our land. Wash us and we will be clean. Made new. Clothed and in our right minds. Together.
All powerful and promise keeping God, make it so. Sweet Jesus, make us so. – AMEN