The news of our nation’s largest mass shooting seared the air waves all of yesterday, The Lord’s Day. Who has sufficient words to describe this tragedy? I turn to Psalm 42:
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me
continually, “Where is your God?” My soul is cast down within me.
|AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhac|
Armed with powerful guns, including an assault rifle, the killer targeted LGBT persons and killed 50 of them. It is an act of terror and hate, and the scenes of carnage are unbearable.
Where will the next shooting occur? In a church, a mosque, a Jewish community center, a school, a nightclub, a theatre? Few public spaces are inviolable in our time. The easy access to guns and the roiling hatred that urges their use renders us all vulnerable.
Lament echoes in our land today. Social media blazes with outrage, pain, grief, and resolve. I pray that it will prompt new measures of gun control.
Lament is often silenced in our worship. We think that worship must always be “upbeat,” rife with celebration. There is little room for hearts groaning with grief. Yet, if the anguish cannot be said out loud, it has little chance of being alleviated.
Individual and communal psalms of lament populate the Psalter, but are seldom used in worship. Perhaps they are too raw, too honest, too much in the face of the Holy One. Nevertheless, they are smack dab in the middle of the Bible—a lot of them.
They follow a pattern: there is an address to God; a description of the current travail; a statement of belief that God will hear the prayers of the people; a specific petition; and these psalms conclude with a vow of praise when they see God’s action. This is a good structure for any prayer, in my judgment.
I venture to offer these words:
O God of strength and mercy, where are you today?
Our nation is bowed down with grief over another act of terrifying violence; will you be silent?
Hatred and fear have conspired once again to kill the “other,” those whose sexuality does not comport with the majority.
Persons of many faiths in our nation are praying today; we trust you will hear these prayers and spur us to action. We will speak peace in your name lest you be deemed absent.
Heal our fall to violence, we pray. Give us courage to be strong against those who hate and merciful to those we do not understand.
We are counting on you, O God. Be swift to act. Empower people of good will to enact justice, and we will praise you.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders who work for the common good.