Liturgy for a Grieving Nation

Liturgy for a Grieving Nation
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

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​.every​mo​men​tholy​.com