A Voice Is Heard in Orlando

A Community Lament for Orlando

The children of Orlando sit on the ground in silence;
    Their hands bury their faces; grief has become their sackcloth.

For these things we weep.
    Our eyes flow with tears.

Our children are desolate.
    For the enemy has prevailed.

Our souls are bereft of peace:
    We have forgotten what happiness is.

The thought of such horror and death is wormwood and gall!
    We think of it continually and our souls are bowed down within us.

But this we call to mind,
    And therefore we have hope.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.
    Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.

The Lord is my portion, says my soul.
    Therefore I will hope in him.

A Prayer of Confession

Lord God, who gives and sustains all life, comfort all your children, but especially those of Orlando whose minds now relive the horror and wanton destruction of life that came when your shalom was vandalized,
    Be the passionate friend whose heart breaks with all who are brokenhearted.

We turn to you for your life-giving breath; we turn to you for hope,
    We turn to you for forgiveness as we confess our sins.

Where we have failed you and others in your mission,
    Lord, forgive us.

Where we have failed to love you above all and others as ourselves,
    Lord, forgive us.

Where we have taken secret pleasure in others’ misery, believing that their suffering is deserved,
    Lord, forgive us.

Where we have not stood by those unlike us in color, language, origin, gender, gender orientation or belief,
    Lord, forgive us.

Where we have not raised our voices against oppression and injustice because ‘they’ are different,
    Lord, forgive us.

A Prayer for Restoration

Renew our lives and our faith so that we may be the Church of Jesus Christ wherever we are placed.
    Move us to dedicate our lives to your service.

As you raised your own Son from death and the grave, raise us up to new life in you.
    Move us to dedicate our lives to your service.

Empower us by the Holy Spirit to dream dreams and see visions of a cosmos in which all things are made new.
    Move us to dedicate our lives to your service.

Make us a living Church in Christ’s name, holy unto you and precious in your sight.
    Move us to dedicate our lives to your service.

Make us to be Christ in the world, finding new ways to declare your love to those around us.
    Move us to dedicate our lives to your service.

Raise up Orlando and all our communities to be better, stronger, united and devoted to our common good to the praise of your holy Name!
    All honor, glory and praise to you, God our Father, and to Jesus Christ your  Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore, world without end. 

Amen!

Orlando, Orlando -- I stand read to gather your children together.

Based on the work of ELCA pastor, Rev. Pastor Thomas L. Weitzel, ret.

 

A World Fit for Prayer II

Angels and Demons

Some classical artwork portrays strange worlds where angels and demons pull people toward their destiny. But at the time, that wasn’t strange at all. We are more affected by the scientific worldview than we suspect.

Generations ago, we believed that spiritual forces caused crises. If crops failed, there was a spiritual reason for it. Suppose an extraordinarily cold winter froze a lake solid. In spring, the lake liquefied. Dead fish rotted everywhere. But blame the fish for polluted waters? Nope! Fish don’t curse waters; those fish died because those waters were cursed already!

Challenge those ideas and you might well hear Paul’s word on ‘earthly powers’ and ‘world forces of this darkness’ and ‘spiritual wickedness’ [Ep 6:12]. Or you could get a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse — war, famine, pestilence and death [Re 6:2-8].

Rubens, The_Consequences_of_War
The Consequences of War [1638] by Peter Paul Rubens depicted the horrors of the Thirty Year War. Marked also by pestilence and famine, this protracted conflict drew most European states into its orbit between 1618 and 1648. It was concluded by the Peace of Westphalia.
The previous post saw 1Co 15:3-4 used to sum the Gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Peter harmonizes kingdom action with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. So does Paul, but his strategy differs. Paul relates Jesus’ resurrection to our own; this in turn leads toward the kingdom consummation [1Co 15:24-28]. Then, Jesus will:

  • Deliver the kingdom to his Father
  • Bring all rule/power/authority to an end
  • Reign to the extent of subduing his enemies
  • Abolish death itself.

Or as 1 John 3:8 puts it:

‘The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.’

Gospel word and kingdom life serve together and interpret each other. Word explains life; and life reveals the power of the word. Whenever Jesus appears, illness, demonic oppression [Ac 10:38] and demonic powers [1Co 15:24-28] must fall. For if the devil’s power and works are not broken and destroyed, then there is no deliverance from sin.

“Pray, then, in this way …’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ [Mt 6:9, 12-13].

Pray for the World

Grace for a Broken World I

Pray for the World

Christie Thomas makes a spiritual practice of something I’ve long thought should be a spiritual practice. And while it isn’t my own practice, I wish it had more exposure. Ms. Thomas’ days begin with newspaper reading and prayer over world crises. There is plenty for which to pray. Ms. Thomas lists these points.

We have unstable world leaders with fingers too close to weapons of mass destruction.

We have terrorist cells scattered everywhere, caring for no one except their need to destroy others and bring in their own versions of “heaven” with them as kings and rulers.

We have grinding poverty shoving hard-working people face-down to the barren ground.

We have an over-sugared world exploding the epidemic of metabolic diseases, the most common being diabetes.

We have political leaders who have no concept of the common good, driven instead by personal ambition and a need to take down the “other,” whomever that may be.

Ms. Thomas’ post also observes that:

And we have a Christian church that . . . well, it does do a lot of real good, but primarily turns inward on itself, arguing over minutia, seeing its own power plays and back-room dealings.

Poverty [including food insecurity and public health] and political failure [the erosion of democracy and rise of militant extremism] are grave issues. They work injustice and havoc worldwide.

And the church? It does do much good. Years ago, I learned that the Seventh Day Adventists maintain a world-class flying hospital that can land anywhere on earth within 24 hours.

Yet many church bodies do spend reserves on minutia. Others deem kingdom life as a distraction or heresy. Darrin Yeager notes that 1Co 15:1-4 sums the gospel in terms of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Then he adds:

‘Strange. No mention of social justice, or regulating inputs and outputs; Paul must have been negligent in failing to mention the heart of the Gospel.’

1Co 15:3-4 was a very early church creed. With resurrection being denied, [1Co 15:12ff], Paul very reasonably replies with 1Co 15:3-4. Does that make Jesus’ death and resurrection a case against kingdom justice? Hardly. And what Mr. Yeager says Paul ‘neglected’ to ‘mention,’ Peter proclaims freely in Cornelius’ house:

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him’ [Ac 10:38].

Peter weaves kingdom life with Jesus’ death and resurrection into a seamless narrative [Ac 10:39-43].  It is bookmarked on both ends by the Spirit’s presence and power  [‘anointing with the Holy Spirit…God was with him’ (v. 38) cf. ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them’ (v. 44)]. There is no Gnostic kingdom/gospel dichotomy here. Nor should there be with us.