There has been a blistering critique this past week of the insipidity of politicians who speak of their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting. This particular phrase, “thoughts and prayers,” has become a stock line whenever disaster or tragedy strikes our society. Our leaders send “thoughts and prayers” to the families of people who’ve been gunned down in schools and offices and homes, but they seem unwilling to take more concrete actions to address the underlying causes.
Well, as empty as that expression may be in the mouths of those who intend nothing more than favorable publicity, I do not believe that praying is the wrong thing to do. Thoughts and prayers are enough, but only if they are prayers for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray in response to 58 murdered and 489 injured in Las Vegas, or the 49 murdered and 59 injured in Orlando, or the 26 murdered schoolchildren and teachers in Newtown, we pray from our grief and we pray from our rage and we pray that God will tear open the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64:1) so that his will may finally and fully be done in our world.
And that sort of prayer is not an empty platitude. It is neither hollow nor passive, because it implicates us. As followers of Jesus, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and as citizens, we are responsible for helping enact God’s will in our world. And the Bible is clear that God wills peace and justice for all people (Luke 2:13-15), God wills forgiveness and mercy to replace violence and retribution (Matt 5:38-48; Romans 12:14-21), and God wills weapons of war to be turned into tools of tranquility (Isaiah 2:4). So, when we pray, we do not pray bromides of empty sympathy. We don’t merely “feel bad” for people who have been senselessly and needlessly executed by military assault weaponry. We pray with the depth and force of compassion, because when we pray for the Kingdom of God to break into the broken and violent places of our world, God looks to us to help bring it to reality.
On Sunday, we will gather in pledges of support for 2018 and ask God’s blessing upon them (reminder that the service is at 10:00 a.m.). Even in these strange and unsettling days, it is holy and good for us to celebrate and pray in this way. Your gifts are one of the ways you live into that same prayer I just mentioned, the prayer that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. Your gifts enable Transfiguration to flourish and thrive in its mission to seek and serve Christ in all persons. Your generosity makes our mission possible, and without your generosity, it is just a plain truth that we will not do all we should to manifest the loving Kingdom of God in our community.
But then, after the service, I hope you will keep praying that God’s will be done here in our midst, and I hope you’ll be open to God answering that prayer by inspiring you to do something. I want to humbly invite you, as you share in the all-parish outreach projects set up around our building, to pause at the Peace Post table to join with the Episcopal Peace Fellowship as they write elected officials to exhort them to remove assault weapons from our society. You and I may have different opinions about the place of guns in our nation, but our obedience to the Prince of Peace should mean that we advocate for fewer weapons in our world, not more.
Keep the faith, dear friends. Do not succumb to cynicism or despair. Resist the numbness to brutal violence that has incapacitated our nation and left us trapped in this seemingly endless horrifying news feed. Pray with all your might, and let that prayer well up within you with strength and courage to bring about the peaceful Kingdom right here, as it is in heaven.