Dear Friends of Second Church,
The reports out of Las Vegas earlier this week have sent us reeling once again, the most recent heartbreak in a long season of devastation.
I’m sure you’ve also seen the pushback against one traditional form of public condolence, the promise that the victims and their families “are in our thoughts and prayers.”
I can understand the pushback — condolences are easily spoken, but not necessarily deeply felt. Pious assurances of sadness and good will, all by themselves, fall well short of God’s call to bring healing to a broken world in the name of Jesus, which is the clear mandate of all Christians.
But I’m also convinced that prayer does matter — it matters deeply.
It matters in large part because, when prayers are deeply felt, they quickly express themselves in actions, like the many citizens of Las Vegas who stood in line for hours to donate blood just hours after the shooting, to name just one obvious example.
For some of us, such gestures are almost instinctive—maybe even more so than kneeling or lifting our hands or speaking particular words to God. For some of us, the gesture is the prayer.
Either way, prayer is our reminder in word and practice that we are connected to God and neighbor in ways beyond distance, difference, and even time itself.
Eternity is alive in prayer.
In part this means that prayer expresses itself in other concrete steps to offer comfort or, at a more official level, to learn lessons from tragedy, as we seek to show that we are engaged beyond the moment—to live out the truth that we are, in the end, one.
It is in such moments that the full power of human creativity and generosity, both central gifts from God and vital channels of divine grace, start getting to work.
When that happens, I start to feel a little more hopeful about humanity’s chances, despite the many challenges that we face—so many of them, sadly, challenges we have brought upon ourselves.
So I am not one to say that the time for “thoughts and prayers” is over.
I think the world is aching for it begin.
See you in church,