Each life has its “Where were you when….?” moments. Where were you when you heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor, or the Kennedy assassination, or the attack on the Twin Towers?
Yesterday afternoon, I had just come back from worshipping in God’s Acre with the family and friends of our brother Bill Hutchins. I walked through my front door feeling grateful for the words of the funeral liturgy and for the beautiful music the band had provided. Everything felt very peaceful; and then I turned on the news.
The year 2020 may be behind us, but we are still in pain. For months, we have experienced wave on wave of grief as one shocking, unprecedented event follows another. With yesterday’s violence in Washington, D.C., I felt that the waves had toppled us over at last, and our country might be drowning.
I did what I expect you all did. I prayed. I sought the comfort of friends and family. I listened to news reports and searched headlines on the Internet. I went to bed and had strange and fitful dreams. And I woke this morning and prayed again, and spent time with scripture, listening for a word.
About a week before this I had been captivated by a passage from Ephesians (3:14-19). I felt compelled to turn again to the passage this morning. Here it is:
… I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
I find this passage powerful for two reasons. The first is the image of “every family on heaven and on earth” bearing the name of God. Names that suggest earthly connections (“Tobiassen”=”son of Tobias”) or boast of fortune (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Bezos) fall away. Political “family” names (Democrat, Republican) fall away as well. Only one name matters: “family of God.”
The second powerful thing about this passage is the author’s prayers. Imagine knowing that someone is praying earnestly for you to be strengthened, encouraged, and blessed. Believing that all people are his family, the writer is praying even for the family members he disagrees with. Perhaps his prayers that they be “rooted and grounded in love” will protect them from their worst instincts and soothe whatever pain and anger they may feel toward one another. Perhaps the fractures and distance between them will be filled when they are “filled with all the fullness of God.” Perhaps just knowing they are prayed for will give them the strength they need to do the hard work of rebuilding any breaks in the bonds between them.
Sisters and brothers: Pray for our country. Pray for our congregation, that we may be strengthened and equipped to help bind up the wounds of our nation—wounds of a size, depth, and ugliness that we have rarely seen. Pray that we will be people of peace. Pray that God will use us in bringing forth a brighter day.
A wise pastor once said to me: “When the waves topple you over, swim.”
Pray to swim.
In the hope of Christ,
Here is a letter from the Provincial Elders’ Conference:
Statement from PEC