Sisters and brothers in Christ,
When it comes to current events and the national news, this has been a difficult summer. It seems to me that one tragedy has simply flowed into the next: Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, Nice, and back to Baton Rouge again. Each event has an accompanying liturgy: sorting out details and motives, naming victims and perpetrators, then trying to find answers and explanations and (often) assigning blame. Each week, as I prepare to preach, I pray and wonder if the message that begins forming on Monday might need to be pre-empted by some form of pain or suffering that arrives by week’s end.
In the midst of it all, our community gathers Sunday after Sunday, enacting the very particular liturgy that shapes our life together: We gather in the promise of God’s presence and grace, we encounter God’s Word read and proclaimed, we receive nourishment at the Lord’s Table, and then we are sent out in peace, to “proclaim the good news.” We carry this liturgy in our hearts and bodies as we go out into the world. It roots us and forms us as we wrestle with each tragedy and every form of suffering.
Our summer liturgy has included an extended prayer just before Communion. We call this a “Eucharistic Prayer,” from the Greek word that means “to give thanks” (eucharisteo). And that is what we do: We give thanks for God’s gift of life in creation and throughout the history of God’s people. We give thanks for Jesus, “our brother,” who came among us and give us life, and who “in the night he was betrayed” gave us bread and wine as tangible gifts of his own presence and the life, forgiveness, and salvation we receive through him. Finally, we pray for the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit in this meal and in our community, where we pray, "O God, you are Fire: transform us with hope."
It's my favorite line the prayer, even though these words nearly bring me to tears each time I speak them. I think we’re all deeply hungry for hope these days, when it seems like the universe is conspiring to make us feel more fearful, more angry, more divided, and more hopeless.
Yet, here we are, persisting in prayer, praying for God to transform us with hope. Praying that God will give us a heart of courage, instead of the fear that urges us to turn “the other” into an enemy. Praying for God to give us a heart of love, instead of the hatred that perpetuates cycles of violence. Praying for the gift of faith, instead of the helpless resignation that everything is falling apart.
When everything around us seems strange and difficult, our hope comes from God. Through Jesus Christ he promises to give us his own abundant life, a life of strength, healing, and reconciliation that embraces the whole world. This life is seldom easy. Yet, trusting that “he who has promised is faithful,” we lift up our voices to give thanks.
And we pray: Transform us with hope, Lord. Transform us with hope. Amen.
Grace and peace,