Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse

Yesterday—August 12, 2017—the nation witnessed an alarming, disgusting public display of white supremacist/Nazi-symbol-toting protest, a predictable counter-protest, and the loss of three lives and many injuries. Social media erupted, with many (Christians and peoples of others faiths and no faith) decrying the march and calling for the deaths to be named acts of domestic terror.

Can anything good come of this? Will this be any sort of wake-up or call to repentance for a number of systemic evils that plague the U.S.? What are churches saying today? (As I write this on a Sunday morning while on vacation and not in a service.) Specifically, I wonder what is being said in the churches called “home” by the supposed 80% of white evangelicals that voted for Donald Trump—who has still failed to denounce white supremecists.

One thing to denounce the players in yesterday’s tragedy. Another to call the church to take a stand. Yet another to make a personal commitment to be part of the solution. How will I do the latter, and from what position, with what convictions, using which resources?

In the course of my typical Sunday morning Bible reading and prayer, this morning I turned again to the Evangelisches Kirkengesangbuch (from the Lutheran Church  in Lower Saxony). (It’s just how I wrap up my Sunday morning devotions and work on my German.) The opening prayer for this Sunday of the church year seems so timely. If I understand it correctly, it translates:
Give us the Spirit, O Lord, who always desires justice and will bring it about with your help: so that we, who can do nothing without you, may receive strength to live according to your will. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

Did I get that right, that word “justice” [das Rechte]? I do want under the circumstances to avoid “the right” (though it is obviously not a political reference). “Who always desires us to do what is right” would work, I guess, but there is not that verb. No, it seems “justice” is not only apt and timely, but correct. But just to be sure, I check the Book of Common Prayer.

(Something I should look into: what is the common source that results in these two traditions sharing so many collects?)  Anglicans this morning may have heard or prayed: Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . Amen.

“The Spirit who always desires justice” . . . “the spirit to always think and do those things that are right.”  Yes, they come at it slightly differently, but pray for the same thing. Because what is justice but doing the right thing? There is no justice without righteousness. And true righteousness will be just.

My friends in liturgical traditions will today be helped through the pain of yesterday by prayers long established and often prayed. My free church evangelical friends will—I hope—be guided by similarly wise prayers. At my own “family altar” I find myself praying under the guidance of the cloud of witnesses, learning to pray in troubling times, and prodded to ask that I “who can do nothing without” the Lord may be “enabled [given strength] to live according to God’s will.”