In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on the true power of prayer, and the power of action, after the horrific events last weekend in Orlando.
Dear friends in Christ,
Psalm 42 seems to offer just the right words: “My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long they say to me, where now is your God?” Once again, we find ourselves praying and grieving after a mass shooting. People cry out in anguished prayer for peace and reconciliation, while others say we need action, not prayer. I can assure people that prayer is action, and we do need both prayer and acts of mercy and justice.
One time Jesus spoke to the religious authorities of his time–we could imagine him speaking to Christians in America today without much difficulty–and said, “For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). He demands both that we honor the duties of our religious practice and that we act with justice and mercy and faith outside the familiar realms of our practice. To choose prayer or acts of mercy is a false choice. We need both.
Let us pray for the dead. Let us pray for their loved ones. Let us pray that everyone, especially LGBTQ people, will be seen as beautiful people, made in God’s holy image. Let us pray that young people can go dancing without fearing for their lives. Let us pray that hatred will no longer consume people until their humanity vanishes in a torrent of rage. Let us pray that weapons designed to slaughter people will be transformed into ploughshares. Let us pray that those in authority in this and every nation will use their power to craft laws which bring peace and safety and justice.
That’s a lot to pray for. But that is not enough. Jesus said as much. We cannot just pray on our knees and call ourselves followers of Jesus. Our Lord calls us out of comfort and familiarity to go into places where we can bring the glad tidings of redemption and hope and mercy to the world. We need to march and work for a land where every child of God can flourish.
We Christians must stand up and speak against those who would use the Cross as a weapon to oppress people, and in our climate, we must specifically speak for and with LGBTQ people. Too often the church has stoked rage, and this must stop immediately. We Christians must stand up and speak against those who kindle anger against Muslims because of the actions of a few extremists. We Christians must stand up and speak for peace in a nation which has become numb to violence.
In the misery of this life, people will rightly ask, where is your God? Our faith demands that we show forth the God we worship.
Our God was born into this world in humility, so we must be humble. Our God was relentless in reaching out to the voiceless and the marginalized, so we must stretch out our arms of compassion and mercy to all people, especially the lost, the least, and the lonely. Our God was willing to endure death for our sake, so we must not look to build ourselves up but rather to offer all that we have for the sake of the Gospel. Our God was raised from the dead, so we must not be afraid.
Our God is love. Our God’s love is stronger than death. Our God’s love vanquished hatred, even hell itself.
Go forth into the world in peace.
Be of good courage.
Hold fast to that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted.
Support the weak.
Help the afflicted.
Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
Yours in Christ’s peace,
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