When I lead the prayers of the people in church these days, they are long.
There is a lot to mention. This week there will be more still.
Some of the recent tragedies are halfway across the world. Others are a short drive away. Some make headlines. Others are privately mourned. Some involve hundreds. Others involve just one person, a single family, a tiny neighborhood.
When the flood of sad comes rolling in, when the news isn’t good again, when hopelessness comes a’knocking and you don’t know what to do, what can you do?
When Jesus was hours away from his own death, suffering so deeply in mind and spirit he was sweating drops of blood, he did the only thing he could do. He threw himself down on his knees, on his face in the garden, and he prayed.
Father, let this cup pass from me…
It is okay to tell God it’s enough. It is okay to cry out for help and mercy. It is essential to ask for his protection, provision, healing, help, for those who suffer.
If you run out of words, go back to our Latin forefathers:
Kyrie eleison. Christie eleison.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Hand out cold water.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his disciples and describes small acts of love they might receive.
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.
We can’t make hurricanes change course. But maybe you can give blood or $10 or a helping hand to a neighbor who just lost his job.
In the face of overwhelming tragedy, don’t try to solve the big thing. Big things take time. In the moment, do the small thing. The loving thing. Start with cold water.
There is place in the Christian life for angry, fist-shaking prayers. For torrents of grief. For horror over what has occurred and what should never be.
You can yell at God. Sometimes you must.
When the waves of grief begin to pass, there will be work to be done. It might be political, it might be social, it might be neighborly, it might be medical. The body of Christ has many different parts because the world has many different aches.
Ask God where he would have you to serve. Ask what he would have you do.
I am praying for you, dear friends. In an aching, brutal, sad world, let us not forget that we are on this journey together. Let us bind up each other’s wounds remembering that we are all the wounded sometimes.
Perhaps Anne Lamott put it best, in her book Traveling Mercies:
Our preacher Veronica said recently that this is life’s nature: that lives and hearts get broken — those of people we love, those of people we’ll never meet. She said that the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice and graham crackers.
Are you wounded today, friend? How can I pray for you?
Are you more or less OK for now, friend? What is God calling you to do in this season?