Prayer for Our Nation

Given by Alan Sherouse at the Rally against Hate and Violence held at Temple Emanuel

October 30, 2018

God, whom we know by many names and in many ways, by all names and in all ways we know you as the God who is our refuge and strength, a present help in times of trouble, a comfort for those who mourn, and a constant companion for those vulnerable, marginalized and overlooked by the powers of this world. And by all names and in all ways we know you as the one who draws near to us now in suffering, as we come to you beneath a cloud of great pain. We come carrying all of these of blessed memory. We speak their names tonight and recognize that without them we are less – far less – than you intend for us to be. With their deaths we are far – so far – from the garden you created. With their loss we are greatly reduced. But we come knowing, also, that before this murderous violence we were already reduced – reduced as a nation – by hatred and bigotry that exists not only in general ways, but in the brutally and shockingly particular form of antisemitism, so concentrated in this violent act. It was aimed not at all people, but at all Jews. As a Christian, O God, hear my confession and repentance for the history of teaching that fuels such antisemitic hatred, and for the supersessionist impulse that claims dominance and reduces others whose lives of faith so reflect your covenant love and the relationship you seek with all humankind. And hear a corporate confession, from so many of us, for what we have done and what we have left undone as hatred and bigotry take their many forms and xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, white nationalism intersect in our time to threaten so many vulnerable and marginalized. Such evil exists not only on the fringes, but finds its way to the center of our corporate life and is fueled by mainstream intolerance. It reduces us all. It affects us not only socially and politically, not merely nationally or in some civil sphere; it threatens our very souls. We ask your forgiveness when we have been complicit, whether through our words or our silence, our action or our inaction. When our institutions fail, help us to be courageous enough to renew them. And when our leaders fall short, help us to be bold enough to demand of them the same repentance that we now practice ourselves. Call us back, O God, to the realization that none of us is safe until all of us are safe. We offer these prayers with the promise that they will take form in our bodies and actions. May the tears we cry, the candles we light, the names we speak be also the seeds with which we can renew a garden, which has at its center what is imagined by the prophet Ezekiel: a great cedar, a tree, that branches out with enough space and safety so that all of your children might meet you in the cool of the day, know the comfort of your love, the fullness of your life, and find the safety and space in which we all can speak your name, however we have known it. And it’s by all those names we now pray together. Amen. Picture: Rabbi Andy Koren (lighting the Shiva Candle) of Temple Emanuel Photo Credit: Greensboro News and Record