Sunday, September 16, 2001
Offered by John H. Boyle, Parish Associate
Eternal God, when we give thanks to you, as we do now, for your good gift of life, we do so with a much greater awareness of the significance of what we might be otherwise inclined to utter somewhat glibly. For we have been reminded with devastating clarity how fragile and tentative and temporary life is at any given moment in time. And we have seen once more how what we all but worship as icons of permanence and stability in our world can be reduced to dust and ashes in the twinkling of an eye. In addition to the lives and properties that have been shattered, our illusions have been shattered as well, and we feel adrift.
In the wake of the catastrophic events of recent days, we hesitate to invoke references to your goodness as never failing or to your mercy as being from everlasting to everlasting. Such references stick in our throats, choke our voices, and sound like so many meaningless platitudes at a time when our senses are bombarded with vivid images of blood and carnage and when the sounds of violence and destruction—and then the sound of deathly silence—all but drown out the cries of mercy that erupt from the wounded and dying and from those crushed under the weight of unbearable sorrow.
What we want to do, O God, is to replace platitudes of reassurance with powerful acts of retribution and revenge. What we want to do is to bomb somebody off the face of the earth—anybody, and anybody we think looks like anybody who would dare to violate us in such an horrendous way. What we want to do is to reclaim our potency and to show the world and our particular and perceived enemies in the world that we can outdo anyone when it comes to unleashing the power of our outrage over what has been done to us.
That’s what we want to do, O God, if we are honest with you; and we must be honest with you, even if we cannot be honest with ourselves. Forgive us for even thinking that way, however understandable it might be for us to do so. It is because we believe that you do understand how we might think that way that we can tell you what you already know about us without fear of your retribution and with openness to your healing grace.
Save us, loving God, from becoming what our best selves abhor. We have witnessed the power of madness. Deliver us from the madness of power, lest we discover finally how thin the line is sometimes between the monster within us and the monster within those from whom we think we are so very different. And keep us, we pray, from being so bound by no purpose other than our own profit and so untroubled by the nuisance of a conscience that we feel neither the pangs of hunger nor the pain of death that make up the lot of multitudes in the world.
Gracious God, through your Word made flesh in Jesus Christ you teach us that nothing in life or in death and devastation is able to separate us from your love. Look in mercy upon all to whom great sorrow has come. Bring healing to the injured and courage to the dying. Sustain and strengthen all who are giving of themselves to the fullest in efforts at rescue and relocation. And to those who have lost loved ones and friends, bring them comfort and consolation of your presence. For all the evidences of compassion, care, and for the heroic action on the part of so many, we give you thanks, O God.
Bless our president and all leaders of government at all levels within our nation as they seek to determine how we shall relate and respond to the terror that has been unleashed upon us and upon your world.
We praise you for the diversity of faith among the people of the earth and for the grace that you have bestowed upon Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and upon all who in ways unique to them celebrate your love, your mercy, and your forgiving grace and who seek to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. Help us to relate to all people in the spirit of that grace.
And when, dear God, we grow weary of trying to make sense of that which seems to make no sense and of trying to find answers to what seems unanswerable and when we are left with little else than our doubt and our sadness, help us somehow to remember that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
In the name of the risen Christ, we pray. Amen.
Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church