Memory, Grief, and more Prayers
June 17, 2022
We grieve with our siblings at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Vestavia Hills, Alabama.
Today, the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is in Charleston participating in the remembrance of the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church seven years ago. As I sat last night watching an ordination back in Arizona of a good friend to the priesthood, my phone buzzed as a priest here let me know her family was safe.
There had been another shooting—this time at an Episcopal church in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama.
On the heels of Buffalo and Uvalde and the numerous other violent events of our time, it is worth taking a moment and remembering a few things.
Human life is sacred to us as Christians. The violent destruction of life is grievous and worth lamenting. To no longer hold human life as sacred is to have lost something essential to our humanity and our belief in the teachings of Christ.
We are a new creation in Christ as baptized Christians. We are no longer our own separate identity and past, but we are one family (John 1:12 and 1 John 3:2, Galatians 4:7, Romans 8:17), one body (Romans 12:4-5), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), a nation of priests to serve our God (1 Peter 2:9). If one part of the body is in pain, we should all groan.
We are called to follow Christ into a new reality that is already true and present. “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.” The reality is that God’s family is here. Christ’s body is here. The Holy Spirit is at work in us, bringing life and light to the world.
But we are not removed from the world or its suffering. On the contrary, we are called to shed light and proclaim the reality of God in the world. That reality includes our common life and, today, our shared grief.
In the Confirmation (and Reaffirmation and Reception) services these past few weeks, I have been asking the candidates presented these two questions: “Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?” and “Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?”
Years ago, preparing to preach at a baptism service, I was struck that we were marking children’s lives for seventy or eighty years with a commitment to be in the world differently in ways that may cost them money and time and suffering, even their own lives.
It is not a small thing to commit to this way of life. We cannot follow Christ and not be changed. We cannot cut ourselves off from the world’s suffering and be a part of its healing.
We have chosen, so we grieve at the death of our brothers and sisters. But also, we remember why and pray that we may have the courage to follow Christ in our day.
As your bishop, I invite you to open your Book of Common Prayer to page 301 and remember your baptism and your commitments.
It has become normal to talk about justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people. Still, those commitments are only made possible by believing in the holy, catholic, apostolic church, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body. They are grounded in continuing in the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.
We live in the Reign of God when we live in the way of Jesus and follow his teachings, together as the body of Christ, but the world has not yet submitted to that Reign. We are ruled by love, but the world is not yet. So it still takes commitment and hope in the midst of grief to hold out.
So we will gather for prayer, and we break bread. We will grieve with our church in Birmingham and Charleston and around the world, but we also remember and are remembered as the Body of Christ in this world. It is our own body that is hurting. It is our family in grief. It is our call together to live in this world as a sign of God’s love.
Let us pray. (modified from the BCP p.308)
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit, you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, the gift of joy and wonder in all your works, the ability to endure in the midst of grief and hope in the midst of despair, to be your body broken and shared for the life of the world. Amen.
I will see you along the Way.
Tags: Stories from EDUSC