One of my favorite people in the world wrote to me asking for help with how to pray about the unthinkable tragedy in Orlando today. Here is the response I sent to her and that I have for anyone who is struggling with that question:
Prayer is not a passive response as we so often experience in the hollow words we hear in response to a horrific and malicious hate crime like this. Prayer is action – prayer is being the literal hands and feet and voice and heart of Christ living and acting in the world.
Mr. Rogers (stay with me) said we should look to the helpers in times like these if we want to find God. I would like to go a step further – we need to BE the helpers.
My prayers today started with Eucharist, and will continue as I give blood, call my senators, and REFUSE to be silent. I am so angry – and I don’t get angry. Sadness is my usual response. But I am mad. I am so mad that we live in a country where this is now “normal.”
But underneath that anger is an extreme fear. This man committed a hate crime. The media still won’t “confirm” that – but let’s be clear. This man walked into a known gay nightclub after a 2+ hour drive with the express plan to murder beautiful, innocent, LGBTQ children of God. There is no excuse, mental illness or otherwise, that can talk that away.
As a lesbian woman I cannot imagine the fear and sadness that stirs in you. That is the place from where my anger most comes. I am sitting next to Tricia’s wife Lisa watching President Obama. It is unthinkable to me that ANYONE could hate Lisa, Tricia, Andrew, Chett, Thomas, You, or anyone else. I believe God is distraught that the world God made has been so defiled by the choices humans have made.
So how do we pray?
1. We cry. Our tears mirror the waters that were present at the beginning of the world and the waters through which we were baptized. Today’s Gospel lesson was about tears: One of the religious officials invited Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the religious guy’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was eating in the religious official’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment… The story goes on to find the religious official saying the “sinful” woman should be embarrassed and ashamed and Jesus turns it around to point out that the cleansing tears of this woman and her generous hospitality was a selfless act of love that washed her clean. The religious official offered no such welcome. Our tears are prayer and those who claim to speak for God do not always represent the Love God so desperately wants to share with us.
2. We mobilize. This is a justice issue. The gay community deserves to feel safe when they walk in the sun, dance in a club, work, play, love, and live. All people, including all Americans, deserve to go about their lives without the constant fear they will be murdered. Our prayer becomes action when we refuse to be silent until common sense gun laws are passed.
3. We give blood. We give hugs. We refuse to live in fear. As Christians we know that death died through the waters of baptism. The Resurrection promises Hope in the face of unconscionable evil. We have looked into the face of evil today, and as Christians we believe that Love will win.