From Eddie McCoven, church staff member:
Tragedy often brings people together. It is in dark times that we seek the comfort of family, friends and community. It is in dark times we seek the light.
"Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep." - Isaiah 40:9-11, NRSV
That's what inspired our congregation to come together for an Evening Prayer & Peace Vigil on May 2, 2019. Thursday nights are our second day of weekly gatherings each week (the first being Sundays). It happened to be National Day of Prayer in the U.S. It also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you. Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not turn my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with those who work iniquity; do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; let the faithful correct me. Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head, for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds." - Psalm 141:1-5, NRSV
Moved by the recent acts of violence at Chabad of Poway, as well as those in Sri Lanka and New Zealand, we came together to offer up prayer, to lift up communities affected by religious based violence.
We also lifted up other communities affected by violence, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:24
While our salvation is an individual gift by the grace of God, it is when we come together as the family of God that we can work for the greater good. We can stand up to injustice, we can use our thirst for righteousness to make peace in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our countries, even if we are persecuted because of our faith.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Mark 5:3-12, NRSV
It is by faith we can move forward and trust that God is with us, even as we face some of the most difficult circumstances.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." - Psalm 46:1, NRSV
While our gathering made the local news, we just wanted to encourage the community to set aside time this week to reflect on what each of us can do to help put an end to acts of violence. While others of different walks of life have a different approach, for people of faith, it begins with prayer, meditation and the scriptures and listening for what the Spirit is calling us to do.
Let us pray:
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams.
All these things we ask in the name of
Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.