Sunday, September 16, 2001
Offered by Dana Ferguson, Associate Pastor for Mission
O God, our strength in ages past, our hope for years to come, we lift our eyes to devastation and destruction. And we ask, from whence shall our help come? O God, comfort of the comfortless, hope of the hopeless, we beseech you. Make your voice ring in our ears and echo in the empty places of our soul. Say to us and to this nation, our help comes from you. For you alone can satisfy all of our longings that earth cannot.
As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we weep for our cities, for New York and D.C. Grant us courage, we pray, for the facing of this hour. We call ourselves the resurrection people, but we seem more the companions of death, more the friends of loss than life. Grant us courage as we join our voices with those who shout out in despair and disbelief; as we wait with those who wait in darkness and in dust; as we hope with those who hope and grieve with those who grieve.
We grieve for lives lost—for mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and cousins, siblings and friends. And we grieve for that which was lost and shall never be again—for innocence dashed away; for the sense of goodness and security shattered before us; for the belief that such evil does not exist tumbled to the ground.
Remind us that though the landscape of this nation has changed forever, you have not. You are the same from generation to generation. You are goodness and grace, compassion and consolation, hope and healing.
And so draw us to the well of faith that sustained generations through all times—through famine and warfare, terror and trauma, vengeance and violence. Let us see beyond these cities of our dwelling to the city of your dwelling. Put before us a clear picture of your grace that inhabits the streets of New York and the corners of this nation; your love that comes through rescuers and health care providers, through neighbors and strangers, an open door, a hand outstretched, a prayer uttered.
Remind us, too, of the goodness and innocence still held in the hearts of the young. Make us stronger to lead them still to build a world full of love and compassion, hope and promise. Let us tell the stories of goodness and giving so that they might not only remember stories of hatred. May they not be shaped only by the broken world they inherit but by the compassion that went ahead of them, that together we might all claim that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, truth is stronger than lies.
We would not pause this day without also remembering those who carry heavy responsibilities. And so we pray for those who continue the recovery efforts and health care, for those whose job it is to return airplanes to our skies, for those whose job it is to bury the dead, for those who lead our cities and our country, for those who labor at the Pentagon and the White House, for military personnel, for President Bush and his administration, for ambassadors and those who govern countries far away.
As we go forth into the future unknown, grant us wisdom, lest we do in the name of those now past, things they would not have us do; lest what we do in the name of justice is simply human vengeance.
Remind us, O God, that vengeance does not equal your justice, that who we are is not dictated by what has been done to us but by what has been done for us. Jesus Christ died not that we might hate but that we might love and serve friends and neighbors, strangers and enemies alike.
Remind us, God of grace, that before there were stories of hate, you told the stories of faithfulness; before we asked why, you had already answered all questions in Christ. The journey ahead is different than it ever has been before.
Remind us that no matter what road we travel, there you will be, just as you were on the road to Emmaus, waiting to be recognized, willing to come in and be with us.
Be our keeper; enshroud our life with your love. Let your eye watch over our going out and our coming in. Let your arm ever stretch toward us and your everlasting light lead us forward from this time forth and forevermore. Amen.
Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church