I’m tired of “I don’t know.”
I’m tired of prayer vigils.
There was a massacre, a mass murder, in Boulder this week. 10 people killed in an act of violence in the early afternoon at a grocery store.
I’m tired. I’m usually in favor of saying “I don’t know” as we have had to do during this pandemic. “I don’t know,” in this case, does not seem enough. Of course we don’t know, but that doesn’t mean the only legitimate choice is “do nothing.”
In thirty-five years as a pastor, I have participated in too many prayer vigils to count after acts of violence where people have been killed. These vigils have been held in sanctuaries, in synagogues, in mosques, in temples, on empty lots, at government buildings, at the sites of the killings.
The prayer vigils continue, and so do the killings. And I’m tired. I have had enough of this. We have had enough of this.
There are people who have proposed solutions. Let’s try one. Pick one. When we don’t take action, the bodies continue to pile up.
Eighteen dead in the shootings in Georgia last week and Boulder this week.
Several years ago, I was at a prayer vigil for a young man who was killed a few blocks away from the church I served at the time. He was the second young man in that family to die by murder.
At the vigil, Mrs. Reaves, a neighbor came forward to speak. She laid hands on the mother of the murdered young man and she prayed: “I cast out the spirit of murder from this family.” I stood there on that hot summer day, sweat dripping down my back, and I thought – now THAT is an authentic prayer.
And I can say, with a sense of embarrassment, that I have never prayed that prayer, but that I need to pay attention to the authentic prayers, the prayers I have never heard before, when they are prayed.
I thought – there is no prayer for that in our United Methodist Book of Worship. There is no liturgy for it in the Book of Common Prayer. There is no worship service that Marcia McFee has put together to cast out the spirit of murder.
Liturgies of true life, true life, need to be captured in this moment. What Mrs. Reaves prayed for was a real prayer. A real prayer.
I am willing to throw stones at our politicians and our populace who allow these things to continue. At the same time, I think we need to change all sorts of things. And it is not just the laws that need to change. I need to change. We need to change.
I work in the Church, and we need to change the language and practices of the Church as well. We need to change our patterns, our prayers, our practices – we need to pay attention to the little things and to the big things that will reduce the violence and the terrible loss of life.
We need to try stuff. God continued to try stuff even though we are a stiff-necked and stubborn people. Holy Week lies before us, and I see Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey – this was trying something new. It’s times when we don’t do anything, try anything, learn anything, that weigh me down, in mind and spirit.
We believe in transformation, right? Let’s act like it. Let’s learn. Let’s change.
Rev. Michael Mather is the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Boulder. Email Pastor Mike if you want to start a conversation.