“In your Church, Lord…” – A Pastor’s Prayer.

Dear God,

My heart is wrenching in angst and sadness this morning.

Cynicism, suspicion, prejudice, and violence seem all to abound in the the hearts of those who say they love you, Lord.

They abound in your church, Lord, where the opposite should really be the reality.

In your church, Lord…

In your church, Lord, we choose to put our faith in weapons of war as our answer to problems in our world, exchanging violence for violence in a seemingly endless cycle. All the while we ignore the ‘sword of the Spirit:’ your Word, who says ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!”

In your church, Lord, we even mock those who long for peace, and we reject the Prince of Peace as we do.

In your church, Lord, we deny women their full humanity, and we embody the idea that women do not bear the full image of the divine.  We do this each time we make a joke at a woman’s expense, or when we assume that we can define a woman’s role in the church and the world.

In your church, Lord, racism is rife.  Sure, we say that do not see skin tone, or make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin; we say that none of that matters. But watch how our defenses get raised when we are faced with the challenges of diversity in the church.  We feel threatened by difference and react with fear instead of perfect love, which casts out all fear.

In your church, Lord, we are guilty of profound arrogance.  We believe that our individual life experiences, the lessons we have learned and the conclusions we have come to, are the final word in all things.  We lack humility and the desire to grow and have our lives transformed to your ways.

In your church, Lord, we have rejected the extravagant, quite scandalous, and unconditional nature of your GREAT love, instead choosing only to appear to love when people have been deemed worthy; when they have learned to talk like us, look like us, believe like us, fit in with us.  Only when we have judged a person acceptable in our sight; only when they deserve to have it do we fully and extravagantly share our watered down version of your ‘love’ with them.

 

My heart hurts, Lord.

This is your church.

And you have called and ordained me as one who will lead in your church.

But right now I feel like I am failing miserably when I see this reality around me.

My frustration is palpable.

But my faith remains in you, because only you have the power to transform lives.

 

So, Lord…

Where our faith is misplaced, and put in the wrong things and places, help us return to you.

Where we have stopped striving, hoping, and working for peace in the world, help us by reviving our dead hearts and expanding our small minds.

Where we think that another human being is less than us because of their gender, bring us to repentance and teach us in your way: the way in which ALL people can be called by you to ANY vocation or station.

Where the poison of racism lives and thrives within us, obliterate it, Lord, and transform your church.

Where arrogance has blinded us to new things and to continuous maturing and growth in our lives, open our eyes so that we might see, know, and experience your powerful transforming grace!

Where we have fenced you in, and tried to put a boundary on your GREAT love with our own limited understanding, forgive us and flood our hearts with your ever flowing and never ending rivers of love.

And in me, Lord…

Show me where I am wrong.

Show me where I have misunderstood.

Show me my prejudice.

Show me how I have boxed you in.

Forgive me for the angst, bitterness, and frustration that feels so rife in me right now.

Transform my flawed, broken life. Guide me so as to walk in your way more and more everyday. Transform my life to make it more like Christ’s life; to bear his image and likeness in all places and conversations.

Sanctify me, because I know that even as I point the finger within your church, I also must own the fact that I too am the church.

So, Lord, hear this prayer today, and transform your people.

Amen

 

Advertisements

How Long, O Lord?

Today our community has been rocked by yet another teenage suicide. I find myself utterly heart broken for this little boy and for his family.

I find myself wondering where God is when a little boy is crying out, and becomes desperate enough to end his own life.

And so, I write this lament as a means of expressing my own grief and despair (even though the youngster is not known to me personally):

How Long, O Lord?

How long, O Lord?

How long?

How long until we stop hearing about young lives lost to hopelessness?
How long until despair and disappointment is a thing reserved until much later in life, when we can perhaps deal with it a little better?
These kids are too young, too energetic, too talented, and too brilliant for us to lose.

How long?

How long will loved ones continue to walk into a room and find their little ones dead?
How long will the hearts of whole communities be ripped apart by tragic premature death?

How long?

You promise to be with us.
You promise to never leave us, nor forsake us.

You assure us that your “yolk is easy and your burden is light”
We are told to cast our burdens upon you because you care for us.

Since the beginning, you have made yourself known to mankind,
So why are you hiding yourself from these young people?
Why do you hide yourself from their understanding; from their experience of life;
Why do you hold back your hope?

I have experienced that hope.

I know your “Good News!”
I know that hope always pervades and cannot be diminished.

I know that light always shines in the darkness, and that darkness cannot ever overcome it.
I know that you are good all the time, and that all the time you are good.

I know this.

But I am nearly 40 years old.

So tell me…
How can you reveal yourself to me, but you do not seem to be able to reveal yourself to the young one getting ready to end his or her life?

I know you are love.
I know you are love and that your love will continue with the grief stricken, broken family of that little boy.

But why was your love not made real for him before he ended his own life?
Why was his wee heart not healed and transformed?
Why was your hope hidden?

You loved that boy enough to die for him,

But you could not show yourself to him in the most desperate of moments, when he needed hope most.
I’m astounded by that.
Your apparent absence is staggering.

How long, O Lord!

How long will we wait for you to revive us?
How long will we have to wait for hope?
How long will the young continue to despair?

I’m hurt as I write this.
I’m angry at you, God.
I’m angry and disappointed.

And yet…

…there is nowhere else to turn.
There is no other place to find hope and healing.
There is no other place to find unconditional, life transforming acceptance and love.

My faith hangs on by a thread right now, God.

Show yourself.
Show yourself.
Keep your promise and show yourself!

We need you to show yourself.

How long, O Lord, until you do?

Why I am Not Praying For Brussels…

Brussels HeartI awoke this morning to the all too familiar tone of BBC’s Radio 5’s Adrain Chiles.  He has a familiar manner and accent on the radio and is easy to spot, but today as I awoke, there was that other tone in his voice.  It is a tone of lament and shock that is heard only when a radio news host is sharing something tragic over the airwaves.  Today, Chiles was describing the events that have taken place in Brussels, where two explosions have happened at an airport and on a train.  So far the death count stands at “at least 31.”  Who knows where it will end.

Awaking to such news and atrocity still bears a shock factor.  Even though I grew up in a country where people seemed happy to plant bombs and cause mayhem and chaos every day; where daily the radio and TV news seemed to tell the story of another explosion/shooting/loss of life, there is still a shock factor when news filters through that something has happened in the world.  I suppose that even though it keeps happening, there is still a disbelief, within me, that in this day and age people still think that this is an effective way to get your message across.  I know that evil exists, and that maniacs still do their thing…but in some way I still relentlessly hope that lessons might have been learned after the last time, and that such atrocious and horrendous violence might become no more…

So what do I do with it all?  What do we do with it all?

What are others doing?  In the Facebook age, the immediate response, which brings out the low level activist in us all, is to post a #PrayerforBrussels with an appropriate image like the one above. I have done this same thing on many occasions in the past, and I applaud it, but today I am hesitant to respond in that way.

Before you judge me and accuse me of godless heresy, hear me out.  The title of this post might lead you to think that I am simply not praying for the people of Brussels, but this is not the case. It is not that I am not praying for the peace and comfort of the people of Brussels who are experiencing the onset of the deepest pain and darkness that they will experience ever. I completely am in prayer for those people who have lost loved ones, or who are now having to consider what life will be like in the aftermath of an event like this.  I am praying that they will know the presence of the God of all comfort, and that through the dark clouds of grief, they will see and experience light and hope enough to bring them through.

When I say that I am not praying for Brussels, I am trying to say that “praying for Brussels” is not actually the answer.  For me, simply “praying for Brussels” (or Ankara, or Paris, or New York, or anywhere else that has been visited with the atrocity of terrorism) is to pray that the city and the community will merely recover and find its way back to the place that it was in immediately before explosions exploded and shots were fired.

But that is not my prayer for any of these places.

You see, I don’t think that merely praying for a restoration of things as they were is the answer.

My deep, honest to God prayer is that complete and utter transformation will take place in the hearts and minds of terrorists throughout the world, so that they will no longer see an enemy as one to be blown up or shot at, but rather as one who must be lived alongside in the world.  My prayer is that the people who have experienced the greatest of losses to acts of terror will also experience a complete transformation of heart and mind; a transformation that will heal them of the pain of their loss, lead them on a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation.  My prayer is that in the midst of the darkest times in the life of a city that God’s kingdom will come and that complete transformation will take place.  My prayer is that swords will be turned into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks.  

 

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not more destruction.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not revenge.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not the mere restoration of things as they were.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is not more of the same.

The answer to what has happened in Brussels is the way of Christ and the kingdom of God.  It is the way of love for enemies.  It is the way of turning the other cheek in the name of peace; in the name of saying to aggressors and terrorists that there is nothing that they can do, which can remove any of that which God has done; there is not act of violent tyranny or oppression of a people that can remove the hope and light of divine love.

So I am not praying for Brussels.  Rather, I am praying earnestly, and maybe even ferociously, that the Kingdom of God will be the present reality in Brussels, Ankara, Paris, New York, London, Belfast, Dublin, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino… in this world, and that the hearts of those who are hurting, and even those who brought about the hurting, would be completely turned over to the way of Divine love, where healing and restoration can flourish, and all fear can be diminished.

Shalom.