Prayer Vigil for Peace

Psalm 120

June 14, A+D 2017

A service held the day when five were shot at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

“I cry to you for help, and you do not answer me.” These are the words of Job to God. “I cry to you for help, and you do not answer me.” They are the words we feel when terrible things happen. Whether it’s the horrible shooting today, or the unexpected tragedy, or the death of someone we love – where is God? What is His answer? Why is He silent? “I cry to you for help, and you do not answer me.”

At times, it seems God Himself is the author of our troubles. “You toss me about in the roar of the storm. I know that you will bring me to death.”

Each day is typically so ordinary. The same thing, again and again. Slow progress towards our goals. Little happinesses; the same annoyances.

Then suddenly, shots ring out, sirens wail, and distress is all about. What will happen next? Is this the end of the world?

Then too often, as it doesn’t end up affecting us, we resume normality. The storm stops roaring. We stop thinking about death, and go back to daily living. Is that a good thing? We should not just give thanks to God that everything is now alright with us. Six people were shot today in our backyard. One of them is dead. That the man who died was the one who started the shooting should not lessen our compassion. What drove him, what drives any man, to the point of thinking the solution is death?

Isn’t this what pervades our culture – a cult, a culture of death? From our disregard for disabled children, to our callous attitude toward refugees, to our embrace of suicide, to the never-ending wars, all humanity is complicit in today’s shootings. Will we just keep going about our business as though nothing is really wrong? The Speaker of the House today said that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. I agree; although we must remember that the one attacking was also one of us. We are at war not with another political party, or another religion, or another nation – we are at war with ourselves.

Into this comes Jesus. He is the true speaker of tonight’s Psalm. “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” The world heard Jesus speak, speak words of peace, and they cried, “Crucify Him!” Jesus called us to repent of our sins, and we cried, “Crucify Him!” Jesus invites us to lay down our pride, lay down our weapons, lay down our grudges against others and forgive – and we say, “Crucify Him!”

Still to us tonight He says, “I am for peace.” He enters into our war, feels our afflictions, bears our sins.

In the mystery of the incarnation – the mystery of God becoming man in the Lord Jesus – God Himself enters into our suffering. He suffers all human rejection, oppression, and violence, and the Son experiences the Father’s rejection of all human sin. He feels alone, like Job. He feels frightened, as it must have felt on that baseball field and all around the YMCA and among our neighbors. He feels the agony of death, the same agony that the shooter himself went through today. The heart of Jesus aches and suffers for both shooter and victims today, and in His distress, He Himself cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

But He also speaks words of forgiveness. To the very ones executing them, He says, “Father, forgive them.” This is what we pray for our enemies: “Father, forgive them.” This is what we say to our enemies: “I forgive you.”

Though the world be for war, we are people of peace. We are people of peace not because we are more righteous or virtuous than others. We are people of peace because we have been forgiven by the Prince of Peace.

Jesus comes into the midst of those who denied Him, those who ran away from Him, those who took up arms and were ready to fight – He comes into their midst and says, “Peace!” And He sends them out with a word of forgiveness.

That’s what we leave here tonight with: a word of forgiveness. For us, and for others. We go out and live in that word, “forgiveness, peace” to all and for all and with all. We go out with this word until the day comes when death is finished and Jesus raises us from death to life.

God bless you all with this peace that the world cannot give. +INJ+