On Facebook, yesterday, in response to the shootings at Emanuel AME Zion Church in Charleston I wrote as a “status update,”
... home cleaning my oven and packing boxes and dreaming of an exciting future while time has stopped at Emanuel AME Zion in S. Carolina. Prayers for the victims of this horrific and intolerable act of violence. Prayers for the families, for the shaken community, for those who investigate the crime and for the perpetrator whose illness has turned to evil incarnate. Prayers all the way around. Pray for peace.
I prayed through the day, offering my small voice to the cacophony of outrage and shock and sadness being raised to God across the country. I found myself despairing about the violence and racism in this place that we call home, and wondering about the politics that tangle up the progress of making our country as safe as it should be.
I read the latest breaking articles about this tragedy, watched President Obama address the nation and peered into the eyes of the boy-killer in his mug shot trying to find something in all of this that would make sense.
For me, prayer in times like these is about offering our own pain to God… it is about lifting up the pain of others to the One whom we call the Comforter, our Advocate… and it is about turning to our source of strength to empower us to enable change. When I pray to God I do not ask for God’s magic wand to wave over us and make us better… as much as I pray for an outpouring of grace, courage and fortitude to pull me to my feet.
There are petitions to sign, church bells to ring in memory of the 9 who were killed on Wednesday, and letters to write. One way that I will be participating in actively praying for change will be to march with my brothers and sisters on Sunday, June 28 in the streets of Salt Lake City along with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. (For more info see http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/claim-it-press-release/ )
This peace march was planned long before Wednesday, and now, we need more than ever to join together in prayer and to make a public witness to the need for change.
I am also turning to my Bible for renewed study and prayer, hoping to gain insight through the Word of God. I lay in bed last night making a mental list of stories to read and study and pray my way through that might guide me. I’m not looking for clarity- I believe that in the midst of tragedy like this there is little clarity and few answers- but there is always insight to be gained. And so I want to visit the stories of God’s people that speak of our brokenness… and of God’s dream of a restored and new Creation. I will read, again, the first story of human violence in our spiritual lexicon: Cain and Abel. I want to sit with the stories of conquest in Joshua, Kings and Chronicles and read them from the other side. I will read the parables that sound so “right” from their titles, (The Great Banquet) but end with weeping and gnashing of teeth and the killing of slaves (Matthew 22). And then, I will read for Hope. Isaiah 11, Isaiah 61 and Revelation 22. Pictures of a peaceable Kingdom, of The Good News of Deliverance and a New Jerusalem. These passages carry me through the darkest of days knowing that God’s dream is one of wholeness and restoration and peace. It is a dream that I am willing to put my shoulder to the wheel for… and that, with God’s grace, will come… in the fullness of time and, maybe even, in small points of light between now and then.
How are you moving in this time- finding your way in the world after Wednesday?
Pray. And then pray some more. For peace.