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Ordinary Time – An Evening of Prayer and Worship for Unity

Last night pastors, congregations, professors and students gathered from all around Nashville, Tennessee, to remember the nine men and women who were brutally murdered in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17 at Mother Emmanuel AME Church.

Unity Service | July 1 2015

We met at Woodmont Baptist Church and the sanctuary filled with worshipers from over 40 congregations for the two-hour service of prayer, song, and visions for racial unity. I was honored to be part of the service and to offer one of several prayers for healing and unity.  The following was my contribution. 

I bring you greetings from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. And from Glendale Baptist Church. We are honored to share in this time and place with all of you gathered here.

Let us join our hearts in prayer…

God of all generations and God of the ages –
We call on your powers of comfort this evening…

We gather so we might stop and attend to the harm done to our sisters and brothers last week in Charleston, and in the days since at in fires burning down church homes across the South. We desire deep in our hearts to work for lasting change. But first and foremost, we simply want to be with the memories of those who have died, to be in spirit with the families and friends left standing in their grief.

Today we weep with those who weep; we cry out with those who cry out, we love those who have loved and lost.

God of all generations and God of the ages –
We call on your power of lives lived in faith

For you are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Esau–
You are the God of Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah –

When we hold up our lives in the light of these saints, we see we are not so different. We too, have our disputes, our deceit, our treachery, our roles – known and unknown – in harms that last from generation to generation. We acknowledge that the sins of the mothers and fathers that have been visited on each new generation. And we are no exceptions.

God of all generations and God of the ages –
We call on your power to forgive and renew

For you are the God of Mary and Elizabeth –
The God of Joseph and Zachariah –

When we hold up our lives in the light of these saints, we see we are not so different. We see people connected by friendship, family ties and a common call to give birth to a new day, a new moment in your salvation history. We see in them a cooperation with the Spirit and the power of a new creation.

And yet across these ages and generations, we come to this day having lived with racial divides, and we have been estranged from each other. We have inherited roles and ways of being in the world that need forgiveness and renewal. Our ancestors lived as slaves and masters, and some of us struggle to believe this is our legacy. Yet until we believe it, we cannot be forgiven or healed. We once shared homes, yet they were homes built on the false ideologies of white superiority and black inferiority, false notions of humanity and race, supported by false laws, and false doctrines of separate but equal. And we are still estranged. In need of forgiveness and renewal.

So God of all generations and God of the ages –
We call on your power to call us home

Home is not always a symbol or a place of security, peace or belonging. Even Jesus had no place to lay his head, no place to call home. Instead he made a new home – not just in far away future, but a new home here and now, and new home on the road. Jesus traveled town to town and place to place healing those broken in body and in spirit, sharing good news of your mercy, O God.

This is the new home Jesus calls us to when he says, “come, follow me.” And this is the new home we want: the one where Jesus no longer recognizes masters and slaves, but calls us all friends. Jesus heals us of the sins of the masters, the white fathers and mothers who made homes of harm and de-humanization. We repent and seek mercy O God. And Jesus heals those who bear the pain, evil and harm of slavery in their bodies from generation to generation; manifesting itself in depression, stress, financial instability, chronic fear for sons and daughters ever in harm’s way.

God of all generations and God of the ages –
Call us all to your new home, a home on the road with Jesus

We want to be your people connected by friendship, family ties and a common call to give birth to a new day, a new moment in your salvation history. We want to be the people cooperate with the Spirit and know the power of a new creation.

O God, Give us courage to confess our pain, our sin, our need for healing. Give us the courage O Lord to get up with Mary and Martha, James and John, with Joanna and Peter and step out onto the road, the road that leads to home. The journey of following Jesus who is our home.

God of all generations and God of the ages –
We thank you. For you have never given up on calling us home.

Amen.

Woodmont

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