May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.
Holy One, the walls have been breached.
Your people are crying,
and we are in exile in our own land.
What is this place where we now live?
Hate marches down city streets at the noon of day.
Abusers walk the halls of justice and power.
Children are stripped from their mothers’ arms and sleep in cages at the border.
Holy One, where are you today?
The evildoers hold the fortresses of power.
The exploiters of the poor grow in their wealth.
Your little ones languish in despair.
Calls of distress go ignored in the streets.
Where is our hope?
Where is our rescuer?
Come quickly, God of Compassion
Come quickly to save us.
For several years I have followed the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle from the World Council of Churches. Each week throughout the year we are invited to pray for countries and and the people who live there. Over the course of the year, we pray for the nations and peoples of the entire world.
The ordering of the countries is the same every year. So I was amazed to find that the prayers for this week are for the countries and peoples of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. (God timing!) Here are the intercessions from the prayer cycle website:
We are thankful for:
the resilience of the people who remain in Syria, Iraq and Iran, despite constant threats and ongoing violence
the relief and assistance that has been provided to so many
those who have made a new home for refugees fleeing from these countries
those who have worked continually for peace, justice and reconciliation.
We pray for:
an end to the violence racking these battlefields of global powers
political leaders emerging in these countries who will pursue peace, the common good, and human rights of all groups
the international community to pursue policies that will result in acceptable, just peace for all involved
greater openness to welcoming those displaced or fleeing from these lands, desperately seeking safety and wellbeing.
And I add these prayers:
For the leaders of the world, especially our president and his advisors, that they may have hearts of wisdom and compassion. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For those who live in war-torn places, that they may know your presence with them, that they may be freed from fear, that they may be comforted in their distress. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For those who serve in the military and their families in these times of uncertainty, that they may know that your love surrounds them. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For all of those who mourn and who are afraid, that they may be comforted by your loving embrace. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For all people and all the earth, that your healing and peace might come upon us. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
God, in your mercy, hear all of these prayers, those spoken out loud, those spoken in our hearts, and those prayers we don’t even know we are praying. You hear all these prayers; indeed, you hear the prayers of the whole creation. We pray in the name of the One who came to bring peace to the world. Amen.
“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.”
– Isaiah 58:12, The Message
Come, Spirit of Courage, creative Source of Healing. Amen.
In these days when political correctness is not politically correct …
When pundits talk of two sides in their own bubbles …
When we are so reticent to share what we believe, concerned that things we say not hurt or offend someone else …
In these days of polarization …
Is there no common ground?
Is not the common ground tolerance and understanding?
Is not the common ground justice and equality for all?
Is not the common ground abhorrence of hate and embrace of love?
Once upon a time, a year or so ago,
I thought there was a wide, beautiful river of common ground
running through our hearts, our world.
I yearn for that time before I saw
the truth of what we have become.
God, have mercy on us
and give us wisdom and compassion.
God, have mercy on us
and give us courage to speak truth and act for justice.
God, have mercy on us
and show us the way to redemption.
A few weeks ago I found myself deeply affected by the impending execution by the State of Georgia of Kelly Gissendander who was convicted of participation in the death of her husband. My denomination, The United Methodist Church, and my personal beliefs are against the death penalty, no matter who the person is or what they have done. I have not been an activist against state executions in a number of years.
But hearing the story of Kelly Gissendander and seeing pictures of her smiling face in her graduation from Chandler School of Theology hit me in a different way. I found myself watching the clock, refreshing my Twitter feed in order to find out what was going on, and praying, praying, praying. Kelly was not put to death that evening and has had a temporary stay put on her execution.
I have been wondering about why I was so captivated by Kelly’s story when there are so many facing the same fate. I confess: I think it was because she looks like me, she’s not that different from me. In the right (or wrong) circumstances, it could have been me facing death on death row.
I was reminded of this quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-1956), The Gulag Archipelago
I truly believe that we all have within our own hearts the capacity for both good and evil. So how can I condemn and condone the state killing of someone on my behalf?
Since that evening of Kelly’s reprieve, Manuel Vasquez was killed by the state of Texas and I didn’t hear a thing about it. There are 13 other executions scheduled in the United States this year. Thirteen other children of God facing death on my behalf as a citizen of the U.S. Lord, have mercy. Show us the way.
Let’s continue to fight for life. In the name of the executed and risen Christ. Amen.
– Shane Claiborne