A Call to Prayer and Reflection

There are no "others" to accuse or blame; we are each responsible for the condition of our national soul as well as our own one.

The Spoken Version

Listen to an audio version of this reflection.

The Scripture

Psalm 23
New King James Version

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Photo of a flower

Massacre of the Innocents by Deborah Beach Giordano

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!
    ~ Revelation 5:12

I had just begun reading another pastor's sermon based on this passage from Revelation when I received news of the massacre of the innocents in Texas. It seemed a Sign: a divine assertion that these lambs, whose earthly lives were so brief, were now lifted into the Light of eternal peace, in the safe-keeping of our Good Shepherd.

The same cannot be said for their grieving families: their loss and pain unimaginable — worse, perhaps, because of the great number; there are so many that we are stunned, incomprehending; overwhelmed by the suffering brought forth by nineteen individual murders, along with the young teacher. Then, too, there is the grandmother, and, in the terrible thrall of evil, the shooter himself.

Despite the magnitude, this was a personal attack: each an individual, private, particular loss deserving of boundless compassion and ceaseless prayers. Hundreds - thousands - have been directly affected, and every American has been cut to the heart: our innocence wounded, again, by unspeakable wickedness; our national fabric torn, again, by fear, anger, and violence.

Yet we can also speak to the reality of our unity: all of us are hurting. None can begin to know the shock and suffering of the families, and we do not dare to claim any part of it; we can hold them in our prayers and our love, lifting them up to God’s gracious comforting Presence with true com-passion.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Those who have leaped in to blame the “cause” of this massacre are of the same nature and character as the shooter: destructive and hate-filled, using these children's deaths as “cannon fodder” for personal purposes. Accusations and “othering” bring no blessings or healing, only perpetuate the very climate of hatred, division, and contempt for life that brought us to this place.

When we ask “why?” — we must look in the mirror. There is no one else who is responsible, no “other” to blame. If there is hatred, we have given it power; if there is division, we have fueled it; if there is violence, we have accepted it — have adopted it, embraced it in our hearts.

Seek first the evil in your own heart: challenge it, renounce it, change it.

Lord, hear our prayers.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I shall be exalted over the earth.
    ~ Psalm 46:10

Bluntly: Sit down and shut up and listen for the Voice of God. What does this unspeakably wicked outbreak of violence say about your own life, your own attitudes, your own behavior? There has been only one Perfect Human upon our earth and — spoiler alert! — it isn't any of us.

Let us use the days ahead, amid the heart-wrenching memorials — and the heart-hardening accusations and acrimony — as insistent, holy demands on our souls. Take an in-depth look into your heart: what do you really hope for, pray for, and seek after? Is it what the Lord we claim to follow has asked of us? Be alert to the insistent wickedness that seeks to turn compassion into anger, the evil that would divide us from the gift and grace of one another. Follow the Light, and pray unceasingly.

Comfort, o comfort my people, Holy Lord. Awaken our souls to Your call to holy wisdom, open our hearts to Your lovingkindess, lead us forth in lives of healing and hope.

Lord, hear our prayer.

May Christ's grace and healing love sustain and encourage you,


Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Examine your heart.

Hughes, Night with Her Train of Stars