As Moderator, I am acutely aware of the amazing ways the Holy Spirit is working in the PC(USA). In many ways it is a joy to watch and observe. In other ways, I am bewildered and confused about what is happening and how to respond.
Thus it is that I offer this prayer for our denomination. To God be the Glory.
Dear Loving God,
We in the PC(USA) stand at the intersection of sacred and secular. We watch as our world, our nation, and our church undergo such extraordinary change that we are breathless. We watch as we see unbelievable examples of hate followed by love, of inhumane acts followed by new reflections of faith, of pain soothed by compassion. In our world we know that our sisters and brothers who are victims of ISIS are being abused, murdered, and horribly treated. In our world’s newest country we see the South Sudanese Christians being victimized and having to live in conditions where most of us would not even allow our pets to play. We see a world where some believe climate change is a result of our poor management of Your creation, and yet where others feel that it is an ongoing natural part of an evolving world. Even the Pope speaks out and many wonder if he should—while others celebrate his pronouncements.
In our nation we watch the murder of black people, including the mother of one of our own PC(USA) ministers, whose beautiful mother was shot in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (Mother Emanuel) in Charleston. We see police brutality, and we see racial hatred, on the part of both white and black citizens. And we recognize that we have so far to go to accept one another as your children without our biases and prejudices.
And then our Supreme Court acts, and once again we find ourselves as a church in a state of conflict. Is the Affordable Care Act a law of mercy or is it causing unnecessary dependency on the part of citizens. Is marriage between people of the same gender really your intention God, or did you create us differently with an expectation that we would live our lives in a heterosexual lifestyle? And God, did you really mean for our church to divide itself over this issue? Is that how we are to live out our witness faithfully? Is the statement saying that “Presbyterians Celebrate the Decision of the Supreme Court” one which is accurate?
In our own denomination we judge and condemn one another in ways that are bound to hurt you. We don’t treat one another with patience and we don’t honor one another. This is especially true for our paid PC(USA) employees at the General Assembly, synod, and presbytery levels. Please help us to build each other up rather than to tear one another down.
How do you really expect us to remain a part of one body? How do you really understand that we can love and accept one another when we see each other as bigots, as heretics, as sinners?
God, help us to realize that we are all your children even when we don’t understand one another and accept each other’s viewpoints. Help us to realize that each of us falls short of perfection and, in spite of our best efforts, falls short of being the person you have called us to be. Help us to stand up when it matters, and to be quiet when all we are doing is expressing our own opinions, and we know they are impacted by our own perceptions and often our selfish concerns.
Our world is calling for models of love, and care, and compassion—when people join together even in spite of their differences, and say to the rest of the world that we are all still in the process of becoming who we were created to be—but we have not yet arrived. Let us find ways to tell the world that our differences are assets rather than liabilities. Help us to realize that we often define sin by our own narrow understanding, and that our responsibility is to be the best “ME” I can be—and not to be the judges of others.
Whether we are black or white, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, we are all God’s children. We all deserve to be valued and respected for that reason if for no other. We all are called upon to protect and love one another and not to demean or in other ways to make others feel less than worthy.
And when they fail, and when we fail, to do your will, O God, help us to ask forgiveness, and to recognize that we are all sinners. We have so far to go, and we can only do it with you behind us, and beside us, and in front of us, and within us.
So take us now. Take us and move us to new heights beyond our own comprehension. Let us see and discover that you are making us into new creations in a world that has fallen short of your wishes, but still has potential, a potential in which you believe.
With love and gratitude we offer this prayer O God, and also with a heartfelt and difficult admission of guilt as we say, “I am so sorry God for the things I have done that disappoint you. Forgive me and equip me to do better. I really want to do so.”
In Jesus’ Name I pray,