“When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love”
“Eternal God, We offer our prayers for the innocents who have died, who are dying now, and who will soon die. We are grieved and frightened by the terror loosed upon the world. We hoped, with no evidence, that this millennium would be different from the last— that our new century would have done with holocausts, killing fields, massacres, and terror on every side. While some places are safer than others, we know there is no safe place, for even the private, inner lives of many is held hostage by fear. Grant us wisdom and courage for the facing of these days. We pray for the confounding of hate and a reordering of our own lives. Sustain us and help us find some comfort and hope in the goodness and kindness shown to us, and the gifts of grace we can offer to others. Amen.”
I offered this prayer at the opening of the Rotary meeting in Bangor on June 14, 2016 just days after the massacre at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida. Wrenching personal stories from that night were beginning to become more widely known. My prayer was for the innocents who died there.
In referencing innocents who “are dying now,” I sought to embrace all the suffering and senseless killing in our nation. There are innocents dying every day in all manner of violence. Earlier at Rotary, Brad Coffey spoke to our community wide concern for drug use and abuse and the resulting deaths which, according to civic officials, “could bring down” all the progress that has been made in the Bangor-Brewer region in our recent past. Those innocents are dying now.
Looking even more widely, we have been praying for refugees fleeing war and persecution in the Near East. We have been looking for ways to help, even as we are accosted by scenes of drownings and hopelessness. We have friends and colleagues in Honduras who suffer daily from the violence of drug cartels financed, in part, by the seemingly insatiable appetite for drugs in our own towns and cities.
In horrific massacres and shootings, in hidden violence, and on our own streets, innocents are dying—and will die—in spite of our horror and outrage and fear.
The Rev. Mrs. Garrett brought a good word. She overheard someone say, “When there is a tragedy, look for the helpers.” In Orlando, the lines of people who gave blood, the risks by first responders, the doctors and nurses and emergency medical personnel—and the just ordinary people who did what they could—was heartening. When you look for the helpers, you discover (even in the midst of irrevocable harm) the grace that comes from self-giving.
My prayer concluded in a similar way: “Sustain us and help us find some comfort and hope in the goodness and kindness shown to us, and the gifts of grace we can offer to others.”
There might have been a time in the not-too-distant-past when we could have imagined that one hymn in our current hymnal should have had no place. It has a place today.
“When aimless violence takes those we love,
When random death strikes childhood’s promise down,
When wrenching loss becomes our daily bread,
We know, O God, you leave us not alone.
“Because your Son knew agony and loss,
Felt desolation, grief, and scorn and shame,
We know you will be with us, come what may,
Your loving presence near, always the same.
“Through long, grief-darkened days help us, dear Lord,
To trust your grace for courage to endure,
To rest our souls in your supporting love,
And find our help within your mercy sure.”
Joy F. Patterson (1931- )
# 632 in Worship & Rejoice
I continue to pray for the confounding of hate and the reordering of our lives.
James L. Haddix
Pastor and Teacher