Friday, June 19, 2015

Kyrie eleison

In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
 Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the Church of God,
and for the unity of all,
 let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For this holy house, and for all who offer here their worship and praise,
 let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord. Amen.

Since I was old enough to sing I have sung these words, almost every Sunday, for almost 50 years. Today they do not comfort, they make me ill at ease. Today we need the whole of this prayer, in a very real way.           
Two days ago, on June 17, 2015, a group of faithful people gathered for prayer and Bible study were intentionally, violently gunned down—Black pray-ers murdered by a white terrorist; all Americans. I write this on “Juneteenth”, a holiday celebrating freedom of slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865—30 months after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation nationally.
I am filled with grief—for the families of the victims, for the community that lives with this horror, for this “gaping wound” (as Jon Stewart noted) that is bleeding us all dry. I am filled with shame—that we are not clever enough to learn from past mistakes, that we are in such deep denial that valuing some lives over others is actually a problem (spiritual, mental, social, psychological, and physical), that the stark difference in the way people are treated by those in authority seems to be acceptable, that silence is the largest response.
So today I write, and honestly am a bit surprised I can even put a sentence together. But I know I cannot *only* write my opinion. In order for the peace from above, for which I pray each week, to settle into our reality, I must also act. My opinion must be also conviction, something I believe to be fundamentally true out of which I make choices. And my sentences must have fewer “I”s in them and more “we”, though I don’t like to tell people what to do. Structural racism is a sickness of the whole; it is the sin of the community that suffers from it, not the bad collective luck of certain individuals. WE have to care more. WE have to know our neighbors, and even when we don’t, WE have to understand that community means being in this together, for better or for worse. WE have to put feet on our faith—if our moral conviction comes from the call of God to love and serve neighbor, and to honor ALL creation, and to BE the image of God for others, and to see the face of Christ in those around us, then I, and we, cannot only write. There are conversations to have, and relationships to develop, and congressional letters to write, and picket signs to design, and protests to march, and votes to be cast. And yes, prayers to be prayed; but prayer cannot remain in the silence of our hearts. If prayer does not move us to action, then we are not listening to God’s reply to our prayers.
I have more opinions, of course—about who has access to guns, and what it means to be church, and why some crimes are framed and treated so differently from others even when they are similar in intent and result, and how our self-centeredness leads us to vote the way we do, which provides gaps in accountability, which makes domestic terrorism a “fluke” and not a problem. But I think we need to put a lot of our politics aside so we can have an honest engagement with the issue(s). Yes, it’s political, and yes, I think religion and politics absolutely mix and shape one another—but we have to listen first, to God, to one another, and to the community.
 I don’t know what my “next step” will be, probably tears. But I am convinced there must be a next step. If I pray the kyrie, I commit to making it real, to doing something for the peace of God, for unity, for the peace of the world, for the people I know and the millions who are beloved by God whom I will never meet.
Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord.  Indeed.