So here we are, once again, struggling in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy and outrage. White supremacists have attacked and killed peaceful Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand.
I always struggle with the question of how to respond, as a leader in a Christian church, in the aftermath of such events.
We may well pray in intercession — pray for healing for the wounded and aggrieved and for a better world.
We may well pray in confession — confessing the ways in which we participate in systems of oppression and exclusion of those who are different.
We should do these things, of course. But I believe that, in the immediate aftermath, we are not really able to do them with a whole heart.
Our first need, I believe, is simply to express to God our feelings, our desires and our disappointments. We need to complain. This is a legitimate response and a very biblical one. Therefore, for worship in the aftermath of the events in Christchurch, this is the prayer that I have written for my congregation:
A Lament (Inspired by Psalm 79)
L: O God, the wicked have entered into a sacred place. They have defiled two mosques sacred to many and thus sacred to you. That have left hundreds of lives in ruins. They have slain many people who you created and who you love. They have poured out their blood like water all around Christchurch.
P: They have spread their hatred far and wide through social media. They have made Muslims – our neighbours, our friends and fellow people of faith – feel unsafe at worship even here in Canada on the opposite end of the world.
L: How long, O Lord? Will you endure such wickedness forever? Will you let zealous wrath burn like fire?
P: Pour out your wrath on evildoers and those who support them for they have devoured people at prayer and laid waste to their mosques.
L: Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.
P: Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
L: Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes.
P: Let the groans of the aggrieved and wounded come before you; according to your great power preserve those in danger of death.
L: And let those who are afraid, who are wounded and surrounded by hatred know blessings sevenfold in repayment of the taunts with which they have endured, O Lord!
P: For you are our God. You are the hope of all nations. You are the hope of peace.