Church Family, I’m reaching out to you in the middle of this week as we all continue to grieve the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. We have seen gun violence before in places presumed safe: church, school, stadium, club, or concert. This week, we are again facing the reality that unimaginable violence has occurred in a place marked “sanctuary.”
Yesterday, our church staff gathered at Noon in our First Baptist Church Greensboro sanctuary. We gathered to pray and to grieve, to ask God to show us how to act, and to commit to fully give ourselves to the work of Love. As we all continue to pray with our individual voices this week, I wanted to share with you corporately some of the “sanctuary prayers” we shared as a staff. Each of the five prompts below reflects briefly on an aspect of sanctuary, and invites you to pray. I hope these guided prayers might be a resource and comfort for you.
The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge . (Psalm 46)
I. Sanctuary — a place of refuge
Consider our sanctuary. Imagine all who find refuge there. Who do you sit with? Who do you sit near? With whom do you pass the peace of Christ? Who do you see as you depart to serve? Consider the times our sanctuary has been a refuge for you, and for others you love. Now spend a few moments in prayer, asking that God would help our sanctuary to ever be a place of refuge and safety for all.
II. Sanctuary — a place of remembrance
Remember the members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, who have lost so much. Express your assurance that those killed are safe in the eternal refuge provided by the Love of God. Pray for the survivors. Pray for those still hospitalized. Pray for those traumatized. Pray for those who are doing the hard work of grief. Pray for the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, who is grieving not only as a pastor but as a father and in all ways facing unimaginable steps ahead. Pray for leaders in the church. Pray for those that minister to them all . Ask that God would restore to all of them the assurance of God’s presence, from which nothing can separate them.
III. Sanctuary — a place of rehearsal
Jill Crainshaw, worship theologian and professor, has said that a sanctuary is a place where in worship we “rehearse” the justice and peace that God calls us to live out in the world. What are you rehearsing and practicing in your life of faith? Spend a few moments in prayer, asking that God would make our sanctuary a setting in which we are not only reactive against violence but proactive in the things that make for peace. Ask that God would help us in this place and time to find what is in us to do to rehearse, advocate, reform, and recreate the world as it ought to be. May our sanctuary — and our larger life as a church — be a place where we rehearse peace amidst violence, hope in the face of the worst things we can imagine, and faith beyond the fear this world incites.
IV. Sanctuary — in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word “miqdas,” referring to that which is holy; a place of worship; a place where God is known
Consider the ways you’ve known God in our sanctuary, or in other places made holy by the presence of God. Rest in the memory of such places, and ask God to build sanctuaries in various ways throughout this world, that God might be more fully known.
V. Sanctuary — a living reality, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
If we are a temple of the living God, then we are a sanctuary. Pray that God would make you a sanctuary. A person who is a refuge and safe place for others. Someone who remembers what is of highest value and greatest importance. A life that rehearses the justice and peace of our God. A person in whom and through whom God is known.
First Baptist Church Greensboro and each of us have a role to play in this place and time. I hope to see you Sunday, in our sanctuary, where we will find strength to pray, boldness to act, and faith to love with abundance, so that peace may be found in our sanctuary, and in the “sanctuaries” of our very lives.
A Pastor’s Love,