Turning to God amid recent violence

September 23, 2016
Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

The past several days my morning prayers return to the same despairing and desperate lament:
   It’s too much! Violence upon violence has overrun grace upon grace.
   I can’t deal with all the terror and violence.
   How much longer, O God. It’s just too much!
My heart echoes the psalmist’s cry:
   “O God, do not keep silence;
       do not hold your peace or be still, O God!” (Psalm 83:1)
The last few days have been overwhelming, nearly incomprehensible. The terrorist attacks in St. Cloud and New York/New Jersey; the police shootings of African-American men in Tulsa and Charlotte; the relentless, numbing homicides in Chicago (and increasingly Minneapolis) city streets boiling over with angry protesters and rioters—all add to the narrative of death and fear reported daily throughout our nation. It is too much!
The only place I can turn is to the One who is always faithful. So, the refrain to my lament is:
   “Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
   Morning by morning new mercies I see;
   all I have needed thy hand has provided;
   great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!” (UM Hymnal #140)
God remains God in the midst of the violent chaos. And God’s saving, reconciling narrative remains unwavering in the midst of hopelessness and despair.
So, I urge you to turn to God in prayer. Pray for all those who suffer as a result of violent and terror-inducing acts. Pray that God will comfort families and friends of the victims. Pray for the first responders and those, including the police, who work to protect public safety. Pray for all those feeling vulnerable, isolated, insecure, and fearful. Pray for peace.
So, I urge you to engage in the difficult but necessary and urgent public debate about gun control and the growing prominence of violence in our culture. Engage in the debate about policing our communities. Acknowledge the persistent, debilitating, institutionalized reality of racism and racial/religious violence and injustice. Racial/religious justice is ultimately about the restoration of right, respectful, and equitable relationships. Seek and build restorative relationships. Become a peacemaker.
So, I pray:
Gracious and ever-faithful God, Prince of Peace, Healer of the Nations, vanish our despair and fear. Grant us wisdom, strength, courage, and humbleness of heart to always choose your path; to always choose to overcome evil with mercy and justice; to always choose peace; to always place our trust in you, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Dakotas-Minnesota Area
The United Methodist Church

RELATED WORKSHOP: 'If it matters, do something': The Minnesota Conference’s Commission on Religion and Race is sponsoring an Oct. 15 workshop in Minneapolis that will explore how to combat the racial inequities in our society and culture. Participants will leave with with tactics, tools, and inspiration to take action in their lives, churches, and communities. The session’s keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, is senior minister of Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, Missouri and founding director of the Center for Social Empowerment. Johnson is one of the nation’s thought leaders on faith-rooted responsiveness to racial and social injustice. Learn more and register

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