The Work of Creation: Judges 5: 3-7

We have a lot to do tonight.

That fits, right?

Tonight we are staring at the role of women in our lives and we come to a point of saying, ‘There is a whole lot to do. ‘

And we’re going to get it done.

That sound like any woman you know?

Plenty to do.

And it’s going to get done.

Let us start with the recognition that today is Mother’s Day and that every soul in this room was born of a mother.

Sometimes that relationship went well from there. And sometimes not.

For those who can wholly celebrate their mothers’ enduring presence and wisdom in their life, we gathered here – we celebrate that with you.

This is not a competition. The world may teach us that we are supposed to be better than everybody else, that for somebody to win, somebody else has to lose, that if you are all happy, I am going to be talking about you behind your back.

You know what I say about that?

I say that is from Hell. Those are the world’s values. Those are not God’s values. That is not love of my neighbor. So I look on Facebook or I look around this room and I see that you have an incredible relationship with your wonderful mother and y’all had brunch together today and it is all so happy.

For those you who have great relationships with your mothers and great relationships with your children and all or any of the things that are supposed to make this a great day, I say blessings on you for your joy.

But that may not be the relationship that you have – or had – with your mother. Or maybe your mother was wonderful, but she’s gone. Maybe gone earlier from your life. Or maybe, excruciatingly, just recently.

So maybe you look at the fact of Mother’s Day and your heart hurts. You look at all those blasted sappy Hallmark cards and you look all those smiling brunch pictures and your heart hurts.

But you know what we are going to do tonight?  We are going to celebrate. We are going to be happy that we were born onto this Earth of a woman who – for whatever was going on in her life – did what she could do. For some of us that was grand and wonderful and perfect. And for those of you among us, those people who know this day as a joyful one, we rejoice with you.

Even as we grieve our own losses. What was. What was not. What could never be. What has been lost to us.

We rejoice with you. You acknowledge our pain. That is the compassion born to you.

Together we are healed. Together we look upon the faces of women in this world and we give thanks and we know and release our pain and we forgive.

We can say the same for the mothering we have or have not done. We who have given birth to a child may rightly rejoice on this day. Thank God for our children. But at the same time it is no less true that there are hearts which are broken – hearts to whom a child was denied. Or lost. The suffering. Oh my God. Women who for whatever reason wanted a child that was denied to them. Or bore a child who could not be the child they dreamed of. Or who didn’t want a child and somehow felt the judgment of the world. Or maybe there are no words.

It takes a village, my friends. No truer words have ever been said. Somehow all of us have to come to this moment in our lives.

This evening, you know what we do? We celebrate. We celebrate all the good mothering that happens in this world. That good mothering happens through biological mothers and through incredible women who offer that into the world because that’s what they do.

Thank God for all the mothering that happens in this world. Thank God that we do not have to rely on some single chain of biology for us to give or for us to receive.

While I tend to shy away from describing God as a Father or as a Mother because I believe that God is way, way, way beyond our human conceptions of gender and role, let us fully assert in this moment that in our life – no matter who we are separated from in this earthly realm, no matter what – we are wholly immersed in the love of God.

Whatever the best love that you got from your mama or that you didn’t get for but yearned for from your mama? That? That is the love that God wraps you in every minute of every day. And whatever love that you have to give? The love that you would give to a child? God calls upon us to offer that back into the world.

Because the world so desperately needs it.

You get to decide what that looks like.

Know that the world needs a mother’s love. And that you – whether or not you are anybody’s biological mama – and in the unlikely event that you are a man and sure ain’t going to be anybody’s biological mama – the world and its people still need that kind of love. And you, my friends, by the nature of being here, by the nature of listening to the call of God can consider yourself summoned to provide it.

The world needs the kind of love we are supposed to learn from our mamas. If you received that kind of love in your life, excellent! Turn around and share it. If you didn’t, well then, you know what you missed. Help make sure no one goes without it.

Now let’s turn to our Scripture to teach us something about what it means to do this work in the world.

Women’s work, that is.

We look tonight at the story of Deborah, kept deep in the book of Judges – which is not a book we preach from too much in our tradition because it’s hard. These are not for the most part the easy stories of morality, our legacy of ethics and tradition.

Judges is a brutal book, the story of the Israelites, finally settled in Canaan, getting it wrong over and over again and finding themselves accountable to God for that fact. The Israelites have spent their time wandering in the wilderness under Moses and Aaron. They’ve followed Joshua in gaining control of their promised land. They occupy this territory now and they are trying to figure out how to live.

Brutal, bloody stuff. This is not a pretty story, but it is a powerful one.

In the Hebrew Bible, judges are not judges quite like we think of them today. We’re not talking formal courts and appointed or elected legal arbiters. The judges of this book are respected leaders. They are the folks that others turned to for wisdom and direction.

And of all things the amazing thing in this incredibly patriarchal society? One of them was a woman. Her name was Deborah.

Deborah was a prophet and a wise woman. Under her leadership, the people of Israel defeated those who were attempting to conquer them. And under Deborah the Israelites lived and prospered and stayed faithful – those folks had a real hard time with false idols sometimes – but they stayed faithful for 40 years.

That’s pretty amazing. This text tonight is a part of the song that affirms their victory. And we hear Deborah named as a mother in Israel.

A mother in Israel?

We don’t know if Deborah was the biological mother of children. We don’t know the story of her family life. But we do know here that through her wisdom and skill, she gives birth to something very, very important – 40 years of peace and faithful living on this land.

Let’s think about this for a moment – she gives birth to peace in the land. She is a woman called to do important work and she does it seriously.

On this Mother’s Day, we celebrate the literal births – the wonders of children and family. But I also put to each of you – what do you want to give birth to?

It may be children – literally. Precious beings you guide in this world.

For you, it might be a community of nurturing and care for other people’s children. Or other people’s mothers. Or for people who have no family of their own.

Deborah does not do this work alone She’s faithful to God and she works with others. She summons Barak and together they lead an army. And through her prophecy, Deborah knows that the courage of yet another woman will bring them a key victory – a bold woman named Jael who single-handedly killed the Canaanite general Sisera to secure the peace.

What can you give birth to?

Maybe you give birth to a great idea, something that makes a difference not only in your own life but in the lives of those around you.

Ella Baker gave birth to a powerful grassroots organizing tradition in the Civil Rights movement. Dorothy Day gave birth to the Catholic Worker Movement in New York City during the Great Depression, Jane Addams gave birth to the Settlement House Movement for immigrant welfare in early 20th century Chicago. Rachel Carson gave birth to the modern environmental movement.

Toni Morrison and Alice Walker and Adrienne Rich and Mary Oliver and Sandra Cisneros and Denise Levertov and Barbara Kingsolver have given birth to words in the shape of poems and stories and essays and novels, words that move us and teach us and change us, words that will endure for centuries.

In the country of Myanmar, Aung Sung Suu Kyi gave birth to a non-violent revolution that ended decades of military dictatorship.

I know dozens of women – some of them in right here in this room – who have given birth to communities of love and care, where people find connection and friendship and prayers and support. Women who mother children and grown children who are not theirs by birth all the time.

Thank God for that. It sure enough takes a village to raise any child or even to live in this world – and we give birth to and sustain that village for one another each and every day.

Sixteen years ago a group of women – and men –  gave birth to this church. Today we all tend it, nurture, keep it growing with a deeds and our wisdom.  Who says you even have to be a woman to give birth to the stuff of a better world? This is a message for us all.

In 1971 in East Harlem, New York, a former Black Panther named Afeni Shakur gave birth to Tupac. I have great respect for hip hop and hip hop culture, but I don’t claim it as my own. But of course I know Tupac and appreciate his work and his genius. As some of the friends in my Facebook feed began to call the name of Afeni Shakur on Monday morning and to mark her sudden passing, I started to pay attention.

Afeni Shakur was a mother – a mother who grieved the tragic death of her gifted son – a mother who grieved for and fought the sins of the world, its systemic evils of racism, sexism, and economic disparity. Even before Tupac was born, Afeni helped give birth to a chapter of the Black Panther Movement, nurturing along others in the struggle for a world of freedom and equality for black people. Later, in her sorrows about the world, Afeni mired herself in the awful clutches of drug addiction. She became dependent on crack cocaine. And then she gave birth to a new life for herself. She got clean and stayed that way, even after Tupac’s devastating murder. She gave birth to a foundation from his earnings, reaching out to people in need and good causes all over this country and indeed around the world. She continued this work up until the time of her death this week.

In that time, she also gave birth to this wisdom, which I share with you this evening –

In this speech, she’s been talking about the example of the great Sojourner Truth, the 19th century former slave, herself a mother of enslaved children, who fought men to gain rights for women and white people to gain rights for blacks during the post Civil War Reconstruction and the ugly early grip of Jim Crow and the lynch law.

Afeni Shakur instructs us – “Things are worse that you think. Worse, much worse, than you think. But remember Sojourner. Don’t make no difference how bad they are. It is our responsibility to look it square in the face and say ‘What should I start with? Where shall I begin?’ You hear what I’m saying? That is what it is that all of us must do.”

Afeni Shakur stared at the face of her own pain, the irreconcilable loss of a child and she tells us – and this is a quote “You can do this thing. You can turn that garbage, that pain, that awfulness, you can turn it into something else. We must challenge each other to do that. . .  [we must ask ourselves] What can I do different with this pain? I am not asking you to do something that I didn’t do.”

Look around you at how messed up this world is. Look at your own pain – whatever its source, I know it’s there. Look at the example of Deborah, a mother of Israel, who in the middle of a society that viewed women as property made her way to leadership and gave birth to 40 years of peace and faithfulness among the Israelites. Look to Afeni Shakur and know that though there is pain, there is also life. We can live life and we can give and nurture life. Whether it’s a biological child or the hopes and dreams of child that’s not our own or an idea or a poem or a way to save the world.

So we have this day.

What do you rejoice in?

What must you grieve?

What you might you give birth to?  In ways traditional or something altogether new.

What will you do?

Amen.

 

Fear and Love sermon: Psalm 111

A sermon I preached back in February on fear and love. With all that’s been going on the world lately, it speaks into the joys and challenges of this springtime as well. 

Psalm 111: Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

There are many sermons that can be preached out of this Psalm, but it’s those last couple of lines that have really spoken to me this week. “Holy and awesome is God’s name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. God’s praise endures forever.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Hmmm. What are we to make of that?

We have plenty of fear in our world. We find ourselves afraid of all sorts of people – Muslims, poor people, black people, gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and queer people, disabled people, people who don’t speak English. They are different and so we are afraid. There are things we rightly fear – gun violence, environmental degradation, natural disasters — and then there are those that are hyped up by one side or the other to get us to go along with the program.

I read an article this week that suggested that we have made an idol of fear. I can see that. We put our fear front and center. We feed our fear, nourish our neuroses, insist on a vision of the world where something out there has its reason for being to GET ME.

Enh. It’s hard to say. Sometimes there’s a good reason to fear. Sometimes not. The hard part is in the telling. But with God – let’s go back to these words . . .

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. How do we make sense of this image of God? Some of us grew up with a sense of God as the punisher – kind of like Santa Claus, keeping track of what you’ve done right and what you’ve done wrong. Oop, put him down for Hell. Look at what she did – straight into the firey pit for her. This one, well . . . not good, but he gets another chance. Naughty and nice. The great school principal in the sky. Power, authority, command. That’s a fearful thing. That’s one familiar image.

But that’s not really the sense of God that I tend to carry around with me these days. That seems too much like making God over in our own image. It’s like something we can think up, that we can get our heads around and so we go with it, figuring it must fit.

I tend to think of God as a bit more transcendent than that. Most of us here know God in a bit of a more nuanced way.  There’s this other image of God that we talk about that we often make a little easier to take. We see God as love. Love incarnate. The God who is with us always, sustaining us, holding us in the palm of God’s hand, connecting us. I’m good with that. God as the abiding presence of love and light in our lives, that which casteth out fear.

But what then do we make of this fear bit? If God is love, then where does fear come into the equation?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Let’s take a step back and think about the context for a moment.

We all know Psalms is an incredibly popular book in the Bible. Even when people don’t bother to reprint the entire Old Testament, you’ll still find editions that have the New Testament and the Psalms. There’s a Psalm picked each and every week for the lectionary readings. Psalms are songs – some of praise, some of lament, some of thanksgiving. What makes them particularly interesting, however, is that this is the one place in the Bible totally focused on humans talking to God rather than on the word of God as directed to humans. The Psalms are a human depiction, a human response to God. They’re a prayer, an offering up to God.

This makes sense, for this ancient author, this singer of songs, to speak of fear. It’s a part of human experience. What we have here a human author telling us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

We know that we are afraid. All of us. It seems to be the human condition. So what happens when we dare to gaze toward God and to let our hearts take it all in?

I once stood on a empty beach with someone. It was night time in a state park. It was dark and still, with no lights around. You could look up into the clear sky and see more stars than you ever thought possible. The sky was HUGE. The person I was standing with said: I don’t like this. It makes me feel very small.

I had a bit of a different take on it. My thought was I LIKE this because it reminds me that I’m very small.

We are the heroes of our own story, right? We are the center of our own narratives. There’s not really anything wrong with that – because that’s simply the way we see the world. But it can be too easy to go from there to seeing ourselves as THE center of THE story. We can forget that we’re not truly right smack in the middle of the story of all creation. So it can actually be a good thing to step back and get a little perspective, a bit of humility, a bit of a reminder that greater things than our own narrative are at play. We ARE small. But is that a bad thing?

Can we take all this — this sense of living in this world, with all of the fear that comes with it, this sense of being the center of the story and yet miniscule within the universe — can take we our encounter with God and all of the reactions we have to that moment? Can we take all of this swirl of encounter and emotion and end up in a useful place?

I tell you, these days it often seems like the swirl is what makes the news. We get battered by
tornadoes of chaos and corruption, of
retribution and resentment, of
pronouncements and propaganda.

It’s a whirlwind.

In the midst of it all, is it possible that fear could be a good thing? That it could be a still small place? That it could lead to wisdom? Not that we get stuck there, paralyzed. But that fear stops us in our tracks, just for a moment.

Can we get away from this image of fear as something that compels obedience and instead think of it as a response to something awesome – like “OH. WOW,” where our first our first response may be for our eyes to open wide.

It strips away all of our artifice and our illusions of that we should put our faith in the shiny, glittery things of this earth. It’s a signal to take this stuff seriously.  One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the writer Annie Dillard – she says

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? …  It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ”

Crash helmets. Yep. Makes sense to me. People invoke God all the time, for all sorts of ends and causes — and sometimes I wonder if we really have a sense of the gravity of what we do.

I think, however, that this ties back around to our vision of God as love. This is not a sappy sweet love that simply approves of everything. We’ll see plenty of that image in these next couple of weeks in the run up to Valentine’s Day.

Instead, we’re offered – called to – a rigorous view of love as a practice, as something we are called to enact and make manifest throughout the experiences of our days.

We share in the power of God. We act as the hands and feet on God on this earth. We can act entirely in and of ourselves – or we can let God flow through us. Is that a bit intimidating? Umm, yeah. It is an awesome responsibility. In our own human imperfection, there’s no way we can live up to it every single moment of every single day. But it is given to us, this task. It’s kind of scary. We are right to approach it with some caution. Fear is the beginning of wisdom, but faith is its ongoing sustenance.

Such an understanding requires humility on our part. We come humbly to the task. But we also come with the confidence of a child of God. So we rightly acknowledge the fear. Fear may stop us in our tracks.

But only for an instant. Because courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s persistence in spite of fear. So we stop. Humbled. Amazed. And then we are equipped to move forward. That’s the faith part.

We are afraid to love. And maybe rightly so. It is dangerous work. It takes us out of our comfort zones. It calls us beyond our daily routines of engagement with people who look like us and think like us. We can be much more comfortable resting in the image of an authoritarian God (who happens to agree with us) than in one who calls upon us to love.

Fear is the beginning of something. It’s not meant to be an end unto itself. We’re not supposed to take the fear of God – or of anything else – and make it into its own idol. It’s a starting point. And we can start in fear and rely on the things of this world and end up in hatred and suspicion. Or we can start in fear and remember that the object is God and end up in wisdom. We go from fear to wisdom to praise.

Holy and awesome is God’s name.

 

 

Dry Bones sermon: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley and they were very dry.

We know that valley. We see it in our lives. The dry bones of our best intentions, our failed efforts, our fractured relationships. We all hit some serious dry spells.

We see it in the world – in the broken bodies of persistent racism, hate crimes, of war and famine. Of slaughtered Syrian civilians, young black men who can’t find jobs, gay teenagers who commit suicide because of the rejection they face, impoverished Honduran campesinos, women beaten by the men they love. In scorn for people with mental illness or who speak a different language or who travel in a wheelchair. Children who don’t have enough to eat and who are.not.loved.

It is a dry valley and it is full of bones.

The world is a very bleak place indeed. But

He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.

There.

Right there.

Hope.

We have hope.

There is hope and we find it in the word of the Lord that comes to us through the prophetic voice.

But hang on a minute.

Where do we find the prophets these days?

I mean, we know that the prophets of the Hebrew Bible still speak to us today:

There are those familiar words from Micah:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? “

And from Isaiah: “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. “

Those words still resonate with life and breath for us today.

And of course we know Jesus came along and had some things to say

But where else do we find prophetic voices in our modern world?

There are lots of answers to that question. I’ll offer a few. But I also I leave it open to you to think about this question in the days ahead. Who speaks words over dry bones and makes them whole?

We can think of some —

Dr. Martin Luther King. Cesar Chavez. Gandhi. Malcolm X. Fannie Lou Hamer. Barbara Jordan. Ella Baker. Marian Wright Edelman. poets. artists

“To climb ever closer to God is not to move away from our troubled and troubling neighbors, but closer to them,”  that from the author and new monastic Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

From Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who in 1980 was gunned down by a government because of his advocacy for the poor of his country: “The world of the poor teaches us how Christian love should be. It should certainly seek peace, but unmask false pacifisms, resignation and inactivity… The world of the poor teaches us that the magnanimity of Christian love must respond to the demand of justice … and not flee from the honest struggle.”

Or the writer Alice Walker who said “I must learn to love the questions themselves.”

There are indeed prophetic voices all around us.

But we’re still in the middle of the story here, aren’t we?

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

We know not all endings are happy. We know things get broken that cannot be fixed. Mistakes that can’t be made right. (I’ve got plenty of those.) We know there are people whose hearts are very hard. Unjust systems that are fully entrenched. The world is ugly sometimes because of the evil that human beings do. And sometimes because bad things just happen.

It is what it is. We’ve heard that, said that before.

But often, often there is hope. There is hope for the living from God.

Then he said to me “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

From the four winds there is breath and there is life. Now we could make sense of this in any number of ways, but I’m going to suggest one way we might read this passage today – because scripture always speaks to us where we are at any given moment, right?

First I’ve got to tell a bit of a story. This is not a story about being a gay Christian – though that is a story I tell sometimes. Instead it’s a story about talking about gay Christians.

This past week I read a couple of blog posts. One was by a sort of hip, millennial, conservative evangelical woman – one whose writings I like. She admits that she prefers the whole one man-one woman definition of marriage. But she also takes on the whole debate about the issue. She speaks of the parable of the Good Samaritan and then she says this:

“it was instantly and perfectly clear that the gay community had been spiritually beaten, stripped of dignity, robbed of humanity, and left for dead by much of the church . . . We don’t get to abandon the theology of love toward people; the end does not justify the means. That is not Christ-like and it is certainly not biblical . . . I am convinced we need no more soldiers in this war. We need more neighbors.”

Ok, that’s pretty prophetic. But hang on.

The next day I read another piece, this by a gay Christian man. He referred to this first piece I just quoted and talked about meaningful conversations he had about the topic of being a gay Christian. And he ended with this

“And so I’ll keep saying it because I am reaping such a harvest, such a renewal of life is growing in the ground of my soul: I am gay and I am Christian. I’m a gay Christian. You are straight and you are Christian. You are man, woman, genderqueer, black, white, brown, and Christian and the kingdom is where we meet and grow together. Sling arms over shoulders. Open our hands and choose to see the best behind our eyes. Choose to stay even when it scares us.”

Now that’s pretty prophetic too.

But let’s go back to the 4 winds piece. What really brings life into this is not just their individual words. It is the conversation.

Not one wind.

Not one voice.

More than one.

Voices in conversation. People talking and people listening. Lots of differences there, but in conversation with one another. Come from the four winds – from all directions. A multiplicity of voices joined together. People talking to people who are different from themselves.

We don’t all have to have the grand prophetic voice of Ezekiel or Isaiah or Martin Luther King.

I suggest to you tonight we ordinary everyday people can together be a part of the prophetic voice that breathes life into this troubled world.

When we join together in conversation, in human connection with others — from the 4 winds, from the 4 corners, from good neighborhoods and troubled ones, rich and poor, black and white, young and old, gay and straight, and on and on and on across difference — when we treasure all of these voices — especially the quiet ones that don’t always get heard — and when we engage those voices in conversation, the result breathes new life.

It joins us together, sinew and bone, life and breath. We can all be engaged in the prophetic voice – inhaling and exhaling that breath of God when we join together.

It is found in relationship, when we hold back the harsh word and enter into a moment of genuine connection. Open to the moment of mutual transformation through engagement with a sister or a brother, another beloved child of God.

It is not a mistake that the words conversion and conversation are so close. We can feel this full in our bodies and deep down in our souls. We commit to staying in conversation with the world, to the witness across difference — and in so doing this prophetic voice breathes new life into the dry bones of our world.

And we shall live.

And we shall know that the Lord God has spoken.

 

 

A Communal Lament for Ferguson

A Liturgy of Communal Lament, written in the wake of the Ferguson protests

One: Dear God, what must we do?

All: My God, my God, we grieve.

One: Dear God, we grieve.

All: Dear God, we grieve.

One: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. But we see the darkness all around, dear God. Sometimes we cannot see through the darkness to find the light.

All: Together we grieve.

One:  We grieve for young black men lying in the street.

We grieve for Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

We grieve for Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley.

We grieve for the all the precious lives we throw away.

We bow our heads and ask for a new world,

a world where life is not disposable.

All: We grieve.

One: We grieve because too often black lives do not matter in our world,

brown lives,

bodies at the border,

dead in the desert.

We grieve for men with guns who believe they need to shoot to kill

We grieve for those who kill.

All: We grieve because too often black lives do not matter in our world.

We grieve for brown lives, bodies at the border, dead in the desert.

We grieve for men with guns who believe they need to shoot to kill

We grieve for those who kill.

One: From the Psalm 44: Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

All: We mourn our racism,

our systems that deal death instead of life,

that offer the justice of the market,

the justice of the slave market.

One: O come, o come Emmanuel.

All: O come, o come Emmanuel.

We need justice for all.

We long for love for all creation.

One: Lynch law

Jim Crow

Mass incarceration

Inadequate education

Oh God, oh God, we grieve

All: Together we grieve.

One: We hope for joy.

All: We long for peace.

One: From Psalm 80: Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted. They have burned it down with fire, they have cut it down.

All: Together we grieve.

One: We grieve for Syrians slaughtered by bombs,

thousands dead from Ebola,

our dying earth,

species dying,

air dying,

seas dying,

all the death we cause

when what we really need is life

All: Why, God? Why?

One: What are we to do but love one another?

All: What are we to do but love one another?

We hope for peace.

We wait.

And we grieve.

One: Let us be silent.