Rituals for Addressing Violence

July 12, 2016



Has violence become a national ritual? This week has marked so much violence.


The week started with 19 Yazidi girls burnt alive by ISIS for refusing to have sex with their captors.


Then Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana


And Philander Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota


Then reports of five Dallas police officers shot and killed: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa


Along with three Dallas officers shot and injured: Omar Cannon, Misty McBride, and Jesus Retana.


Here, in Chicago this week marked our 2,000 gunshot victim for the year. 


My congregation is in the midst of looking at the threads that Paul pulls together in 2 Corinthians to weave together Christian community, yet this week has been a reminder of how broken and irreparable our communities sometimes seem. 


Everyone seems to know what to say in moments like this. I know what I can expect to hear from different politicians. I know the heart wrenching reports I'll hear from victim families. I know what moving dialogues I'll hear from Late Night hosts, and news anchors, and celebrities.  


The World Council of Churches states, “Every human being, created in the image of God, is a person for whom Christ has died.” Maybe one thing we need to be reminded, God heart aches in these moments. And when we are silent, we are silent about the things that bring about the kingdom of God.


My grandfather was a Lutheran minister. I remember walking past the sanctuary one evening as we walked to his office. It was dark outside, it was dark in the sanctuary, the lights were off, except for a light in the front corner of the chancel area.


I told my grandfather that he forgot to turn off the light, and he said, "Nope, that represents the light of Christ, and it stays on all the time, especially when it is the darkest."


This Sunday we will light a candle in the remembrance of violence that fills our communities. I want us to light this candle every Sunday to remember the violence that is around us. Yet, my hope is that it will also serve as our Christ candle, for Christ is with the victims. That is may also be a reminder to keep the light in front of us and the challenge it present for us to take it out in the world. 


I'm not sure what to say in the face of violence. But I think it begins with a confession. 


Here is the confession that I am using for Sunday's prayer. It is adapted from Abigail Rian Evans' Healing Liturgies for the Seasons of Life. A liturgical resource that should be a staple on every pastor's bookshelf. 


Prayers of the People


Let us start our prayers of the community today with a prayer of confession. As we begin, I will say, “In your mercy.” The response will be “Forgive us, O God.”


Can we try that? 


In your mercy:

Forgive us, O God.


Let us pray: 


How do we know what you want us to do, O God?

Sometimes there are more questions than answers

At times we seek easy answers 

Or try to ignore the challenges

We confess that sometimes it is simpler to do what others ask of us.


In your mercy:

Forgive us, O God.


When we see the things of hope, love, and justice,

in ourselves and our world,

in fearful battle with the forces

which would defeat and destroy them.


When we hand them over to the tyrants of our day,

without much struggle.


In your mercy:

Forgive us, O God.


If we have given more loyalty to earthly rulers

than to your still small voice within us

and others have suffered because of this,


In your mercy:

Forgive us, O God.


When we crush the prophetic among us

because we do not want to hear the costly truth


In your mercy:

Forgive us, O God.


O God, who has given us the dignity of free choice,

we often long for your wisdom

in discerning where the authority of Caesar and that of God begins and ends.


Life is sometimes complicated, and 

we feel powerless to make a difference

when we are confronted by the powers of the world. 


We pray that your mind will become clearer to us,

that we will not shrink from the hard decisions

and that we will encourage each other to speak your truth, justice, and mercy with love


In ways that offer hope. 


So that with your wounded hands outstretched

and linked with the suffering people of the world

that we may be strengthened

to challenge all that stands between us and your will for our communities and the world.

This we pray,



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