"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
"Thoughts and Prayers"
How many mass shootings have we had as a nation this year alone? Upwards of 200 I believe? And counting? Does anyone believe this past shooting in Nashville will be the last? My heart breaks again and again for the families of lost loved ones, their communities, their schools. But my heart breaks for us as a nation that gun violence, or violence of any kind has become the norm, and that we have become so desensitized to it in all its forms.
So my reflection this week is on that term, "thoughts and prayers". We hear so many people, both religious and non's say it often, don't we, after another horrific event in our nation and world. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who..." And while I can't prove it, I'm betting that many use this term disingenuously just to sort of move on, as if to sort of close the discussion, the grief, and think that that will placate those who grieve.
Others insist that they're tired of "thoughts and prayers - what we need is action!" I'm guessing what they mean is gun legislation, or more jail time for the perpetrator, or more mental health provisions for background checks and the like. And I'm not campaigning here for or against any of these. BUT, for those whose faith lives include prayer, for those who believe in a God who hears and answers prayer, for those who understand the power of prayer, I say this, "Prayer IS action. Prayer IS doing something! Prayer is NOT nothing. Prayer is taking ACTION.
Abram prayed to God, and God blessed him with a great nation. Jacob prayed to God, wrestled with God at night, and God blessed Jacob as the father of the nation Israel. Jesus, at the tomb of his beloved friend Lazaru who has just been buried, prays to God the father, and Lazarus comes out of the tomb and is restored to his community. Facing his own execution at the cross, Jesus is recorded to have prayed three times, saying something like, "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from me...but not my will, but thy will be done." You remember that. Jesus was always praying to God the Father. Even as he faced his own execution.
Prayer is recorded throughout both the OT and the NT. People pray to God, and God responds. Jesus prayed to the Father, and God hears and responds. Many in the religious community would tell you that prayer, whether great or small, is the most powerful force on earth. Prayer can heal. Prayer can deliver - think of "deliver us from evil" in the Lord's Prayer. Prayer can change...change both the pray-er, and the prayed-for. Prayer IS action, in my opinion.
So at the next mass shooting...at the next natural disaster in our world...at the next heartbreaking event in your life, "thoughts and prayers" are appropriate. They are strong and meaningful. AND, they ARE action. So when you hear or say that term..."our thoughts and prayers are with those who..." I invite you to hear those words as ACTION. Because we are invoking the Holy...the Divine. God.
As I close today, and as we approach Passion/Palm Sunday tomorrow, pray for the world. Pray for your church. Pray for those you love. Pray for peace. God will hear and respond. Amen.
Maybe some of us haven't been around lately? Palm Sunday is a good Sunday to come back to the church. See you tomorrow maybe.
PS. Speaking of Passion Sunday, you may have heard me use this analogy before, but here's how I always described the Passion to my Confirmation kids in my prior congregations. I think it's a good image to keep in mind when we think of Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. And that image is this - ask someone in your circle to take their shoes off, and you do the same. Now, try standing in the shoes of that friend or loved one. That's what Passion Sunday means to me. Jesu, standing in our shoes. Taking our place (at the cross.) Walking our walk. Amen? Amen.
"Were You There..." (I love this version by Mahalia Jackson)a