Friends, God’s peace to all of you. Our weekly email and announcements come amidst our collective experience of such a deeply disturbing moment for our nation — an attempt at insurrection at the seat of American democracy, which has now led to the death of four people. Beyond simply informing you of anything happening in our church, we want to take time to face what’s happening in our country, and to check on what’s happening for each of you.
After our Midweek service last evening, we invited any in attendance to join us on Zoom for a call to prayer for our nation. As we held space to share, we experienced a great deal of corporate grief and anger. Members of our community described how watching the news had brought them to tears, even evoking trauma and reinscribing fear. Parents, grandparents and educators found their voices catching when talking about their children. Carson and Laura Foushee, friends of First Baptist and CBF missionaries in Japan, spoke poignantly about how hard their work immediately becomes after such a violent display in their home country. And all of us faced the fact that this does represent us — and while this is who we are in this moment, it is not who we want our country to be.
In addition to our emotions, we also share lament and confession. As a Christian congregation, we face the fact that some of our Christian symbols and language were displayed right alongside an erected noose and artifacts of the Confederacy — the latest episode in a terrible legacy of Christian nationalism that runs throughout United States history. And as a historically white congregation, we acknowledge how differently our country responds to Black protest and white rioting. We don’t have to imagine what would have been different if the rioters were not white, because we’ve seen examples. Yesterday’s events were a dramatic reflection of white supremacy, which has historically supported unjust election processes, and literally means the belief that white people can hold dominion over anyone and anything.
But grief does not mean resignation. Lament can move us to compassionate action. Confession and anger can spark transformative work. So we commit ourselves all over again to the justice of our God, and “above all else [we] put on love, which binds all things together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14). And with this commitment to action, we also commit to pray. We pray for our country, our public servants, and the peaceful transfer of power to the new president on January 20, 2021. We also pray for our community and church, that we might live out our own ideals, working for the enfranchisement of all people, encouraging neighborliness, and pursuing more fully the justice and love intended by God.
You can find below the prayers spoken at last night’s service. And with them know my prayers for you, and my gratitude for the ways your life gives witness to God’s kingdom. May that kingdom come on earth, in this nation, in this community, and in us.
Together In Love,
Loving God, in your kingdom there is no struggle but justice, and there is no strength but love. So gather us again to be people of your justice and love.
You made us in your image. You redeemed us through Jesus Christ. You breathed in us the power of your Spirit. But as you look now on your creation, you must weep as we weep, at the distance between what we are and what you created us to be. Hear now our laments, our grief, our anger, specifically at brutal attacks on our highest ideals, dramatic displays of anger, and evidence of how far we feel from liberty and justice for all.
As we lament, O God, we also confess, confident that you are merciful, and you look on us not merely with grief, but with deep love and compassion. We condemn the public sins of racism and white supremacy, and the blasphemy to your name and your image in every one of your beloved. And yet, we also look to our own lives and confess the ways we have departed from your image and your intent. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have tolerated the suffering of the most vulnerable. We have allowed ourselves to be governed by fear. We have stood by idly in times when the wicked have prospered. We have been silent amidst injustice. We ask that you would remove arrogance and hatred. Break down what separates us. Unite us again in the bonds of love. Work amidst our struggle and pain to accomplish your will on earth, and in us, that in time all nations, and this nation, may serve you.
In you, Lord, is our hope, and we shall never hope in vain. And so amidst all the shadows of this moment, we sense the clarity of your love, beckoning us to follow ever onward. Help us to become people of grace… Not cheap grace, without cost or demand. But grace that comes to find life by giving it, by offering it for something greater than ourselves
That we might be people of peace… Not a negative peace, that merely avoids tension and evades conflict, but the full and true peace that is founded on the justice we know you want for all your people
Then we might be people united… Not in a surface unity, that speaks of reconciliation while benefiting from division, but a deeper unity that rights wrongs, repairs what is broken and returns what is lost, even as you reconcile us to yourself
So that we might be people of hope… Not a false hope, that ignores the suffering of our neighbors in favor of easy optimism, but a hope that moves beyond the cynicism of our world, refuses to accept our world as it is, but instead by your creative wonder begins to imagine our world as it can yet be: a kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven, as our Lord taught us to be so bold as to pray
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,