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June 21, 2015
Almighty God, who created all people in your image, we gather before you this morning, in solidarity with people all around the country, with heavy hearts over the tragic events that took place in Charleston, SC this week.
As followers of your Son, we believe in the truth of that well-loved children’s song:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
That’s why it is hard for us to fathom that a young man, in the United States of America, in 2015, would walk into your house and massacre your children, whom you love so much. And so this morning, God, with heavy hearts and questioning minds, we turn to you, the only One who can help us make sense, and somehow make right, this unimaginable situation.
We pray, first, for the families of the nine who were so brutally murdered as they met in your house to study your word. Though we do not know them personally, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ and we share in their grief and loss. We stand amazed at the spirit of forgiveness already offered by these family members to the one who committed this brutal, violent act, and pray that you would continue to grant them the grace to serve as an example to all people of what it looks like to follow the Prince of Peace.
We pray, also, for the members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Fill them with your Holy Spirit. Grant them the ability to continue to bear bold witness to their Savior and ours, who himself was the victim of a violent, cruel death.
We pray, this morning, and in the days ahead, for the city of Charleston. We thank you that Charleston has been spared additional violence of the kind that has plagued other cities. Though it is beside the sea, lift it up like a city on a hill to be model of reconciliation for all the cities of our nation and world.
We even pray, today, for the perpetrator of this violence, and for his family. Free him of the demons that torment him and cause him to have such a warped mind and hate-filled heart. Bathe him with your Spirit of love so that he can see the error of his ways, repent of his sin, and be reconciled to you and others, especially the families of the victims and the members of Emmanuel AME Church. We pray for his family, realizing that they must be suffering heart-wrenching guilt and pain.
We also pray, Lord, for ourselves, and for other churches, and for all people of goodwill regardless of their faith. Help us to stand together and to stand firm, to oppose racism, hatred and violence in any form. Enable our love to overcome the sin and evil and hatred that infects far too many in our nation and world. Help us, especially, who are white Christians, to repent of our failure to take seriously the challenges faced by African American brothers and sisters, and to speak out and act more forcefully on their behalf.
And God, in your Word you call us to pray for our leaders, so today we also pray for our elected government officials. We pray for the legislators of South Carolina, that they would have the courage, once and for all, to remove the Confederate flag from their state capital. For though it truly may be a symbol of heritage for some, it is a symbol of oppression and injustice and inequality for others, and it is a symbol of hatred and violence for too many.
And we pray for legislators in state houses all over the country, and in our nation’s capital, that once and for all, we might put aside captivity to wealthy and powerful special interests, exercise a little common sense, and work together to keep firearms out of the hands at the very least of the mentally ill and those prone to violence.
Lord of life and love, so many of these issues seem far too big for us to do anything about, so we put them in your hands and entrust them to your care. But show us what we can do something about, each and every day – speak words of love and respect for all people at all times, take the time to establish relationships with those who are different from us, and share your message of hope and healing for all the world to hear. In the name of him who loves all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white – Jesus Christ our Lord we pray.