i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are:
It has been a season of terrible tragedy. And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers. It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way. People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement. The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer. We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all. But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an empty ritual. Prayer connects us with God and, when we pray for others in ways that are honest and intentional, it gives us the space to move beyond the quick statement, and into a place where we can truly feel another’s pain, and imagine new ways of meeting people in the midst of that pain, and offering hope. Prayer is neither a magic wand we wave to try and fix something, nor a kind of spiritual medication we take to make ourselves feel better. It is a connection with the living God, who calls us to acknowledge our pain, our questions, our anxieties, and our helplessness, while also recognizing God’s love, power, and invitation to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. And so we do more than simply offer #thoughtsandprayers, as some might do: we actually pause to pray; to suffer with; to lift another up; to ask how we might be a part of the healing. So let us pray:
God of life and death and resurrection and hope and victory,
We come to you now, even as the storms once again rage against the shores of our country. Even as the echoes of gunfire from above ring in our ears. Even as the cries of our neighbors in Puerto Rico and Mexico, and other places around the world sound in our hearts. Even now, O Lord, we come before you confessing that at times we feel overwhelmed and overcome. Even though the earth hasn’t quaked in our corner of the world; even though our streets haven’t flooded in these days; even though the tragedy hasn’t been attached to the name of our town, we still carry this pain, and we don’t know what to do.