I’m not sure I have words to express my sadness over the massacres in Buffalo and Texas these last two weeks. A deep sorrow and anger for the families and communities ripped apart over a senseless act of violence. Children, teachers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and grandparents killed for what? Killed for doing what millions of people do every day in our country… attend school and visit the grocery store.
I’m struggling to respond in healthy ways when I consider the plethora of mass shootings in schools, movie theaters, grocery stores, concert venues, and on university campuses in the last twenty years. I thought America was the place to pursue happiness, freedom, and opportunity? Looks more like a war zone. Is anyone safe?
This is not the time to debate on what could’ve been done. This is not the time to debate if guns are the problem, or people who shoot guns and kill innocent people? I’m not sure lobbing political grenades at those who refuse to act is helpful either. But everything in me wants to. I’m no politician or expert in sociology or history. I’ll try to keep things in my lane.
But in times like these, I want to say more and do more. I want to scream and point fingers. And yet, history and through my limited experience suggests not much will change in this posture. These massive dark spots on our country's soul are complex and require incremental movement, perhaps even baby steps. But any movement will suffice.
Yes, I want to yell and burn it all down, but I also need to feel. I need to lament and seek divine help through prayer. I have to give all the rage and sadness and anger and ugliness in my soul a place to go. Despite being seen as passive and not sufficient in our culture, lament and prayer are where we begin.
Lament and prayer are acknowledging we all are part of the problem and nobody has clean hearts and clean hands. Lament is about solidarity with our broken souls and world, and solidarity with those whose lives have been destroyed. Before we consider action and solutions, we must feel compassion for what's lost. Instead of jumping straight to political solutions we call need our hearts refashioned into seeing the people and communities reeling from these evil acts.
Let me submit to you a helpful prayer/liturgy for a grieving nation:
"Liturgy for Grieving a National Tragedy"
Leader: O God who gathers what has been scattered,
People: Shelter us now in the shadow of your wings.
O Christ who binds our wounds,
Be our great healer.
O Spirit who enters our every grief,
Intercede now for this hurting people, in this broken land.
Be present in the midst of this far-reaching pain,
O Lord, for we are reeling again, at news of another loss of life
that touches us all; news of flourishing diminished; of individuals harmed;
of pain imposed, not only upon victims and their families who bear now the
immediate brunt of it — but also upon our nation.
For we are connected as a people, and this hurt, this grief, touches us all.
Engage our imaginations and move our hearts to compassion, O Lord,
that we would interact with these casualties, not as news stories or statistics,
but as our own sisters and brothers, flesh and blood, divine image-bearers,
irreplaceable individuals whose losses will leave gaping holes in homes, friendships, workplaces, churches, schools, organizations, and neighborhoods.
Be merciful to those now wounded.
Be present with those now bereaved.
You do not run from our brokenness, O God.
You move ever toward those in need.
Your heart is always inclined toward those who suffer.
Now let your mercies be active through the hands, the words,
and the compassionate care of those who willingly enter this
sadness to console and to serve.
Be with all who move toward this need:
the helpers, the counselors, the first responders,
those who offer aid and protection, the pastors and intercessors,
those who meet immediate practical needs,
those who seek to heal physical wounds, and those who come after to carry on the long, hard work of rebuilding families and hearts and lives and community.
Grant each of them wisdom, courage, vision, sympathy,
and strength to serve effectively in their various capacities.
Even in the shadow of such tragedy, let us not lose hope.
Give us eyes to see the rapid movements of mercy rushing to
fill these newly wounded spaces.
Let us see in this the echoes of your own mercy and compassion—
a foretaste of your kingdom coming to earth.
And move our own hearts also, equipping us to intercede,
to act, and to respond however we are able.
Move, O Holy Spirit, in the midst and in the aftermath
of this tragedy, in the wake of our wounding,
in the shock and the sorrow.
Arrest the hearts and stay the hands of any who even now
might be plotting further evil and violence against others, O Christ.
Turn them from hatred. Turn their hearts to you.
You once brooded over the formless chaos
of ancient waters and brought forth
the order and flourishing of creation.
Do so again, O Spirit of God.
From the chaos of this tragedy call forth
new life and order and flourishing.
Take even what our adversary might
have meant for evil, and from it
bring forth eternal good.
You alone have strength to carry this people.
Carry us now, O Lord.
You alone have wisdom and power to heal the wounds of a nation.
Heal us, O Lord.
You alone have compassion enough to enter our widespread grief, and turn it to hope.
Be merciful, O Christ!
-Taken from _Every Moment Holy, Vol. II_ by Douglas McKelvey. Copyright ©2020 Douglas McKelvey. Rabbit Room Press, 2021. www.everymomentholy.com