Almighty God, our gathering together for worship and prayer is, this day, both an offering of praise and a show of courage. We come to this sanctuary mindful that even sacred spaces are not necessarily safe spaces. We bow our heads remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ whose last earthly act was prayer. We give thanks for the lives of your faithful servants: Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons and Depayne Middleton Doctor. Comfort their families and friends and strengthen them in the difficult days that are ahead. We pray, too, because Christ commands us to, for Dylan Roof and his family. Bring peace, transform hearts, show us again your resurrection power in places we cannot imagine it can come.
You tell us, Lord God, that perfect love casts out fear and the families of the victims of Mother Church and the people of Charleston have shown us what loving fearlessness looks like. Forgiveness has been extended, hands have been held, hymns have been sung, prayers have been lifted, unity has been demonstrated. The Goliath of hate and racism has not and will not win.
People of faith and prayer, slain after extending Christ’s welcome in God’s house, have left a legacy that cannot be gunned down. Their lives of love and grace have begat love and grace. The gifts of the Spirit that you gave them – gifts of love, joy, peace, gentleness and goodness – appeared defeated on Wednesday night, but on Thursday when people came together and sang, “We Shall Overcome,” and on Friday when words of forgiveness were spoken and a vigil packed a coliseum, and on Saturday when crowds gathered in solidarity to say that symbols have consequences, and today as we and countless others pray for peace and commit to being peacemakers, we recognize the gifts you gave those nine are unstoppable, exponential, inevitable and victorious.
God of justice and compassion, you sent your Son for the sake of the world you love. He was murdered, his last words a prayer for forgiveness. Three days later he rose from the dead, his first words ones of reassurance, telling us not to be afraid because even death had been defeated.
Today we remember and proclaim: Violence and hate do not have the last word. The love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, always has the last word. The Spirit’s crop of goodness and love and joy and peace and gentleness will not stop growing. Now is the time for us – people of faith, brothers and sisters of every race and background – to recognize these unshakable truths and in the midst of the storm, trust the power of the One in the boat with us.
We yield ourselves to you, Triune God, knowing you bring redemption, reconciliation and resurrection. Make us your witnesses. May your perfect love in us and shown through us, cast out fear and help transform the world.