Prayers For Uvalde
May 25, 2022 Creekwood United Methodist Church

Prayers For Uvalde

Posted in Deep Thoughts

Prayers for Uvalde

The beauty of the Psalms is that there is a Psalm for every occasion.

Psalm 139 is well known, detailing God’s closeness and how God formed our inward parts together in our mother’s womb.  I pray that the people of Uvalde find comfort in God’s closeness and how every one of those children and teachers was made in God’s image and is held close to God’s side.  However, the collection of hymns also includes Psalm 13 that begins, “How long, O LORD?  Will you forsake me forever?” and questions God’s closeness.  As much as I hope for Psalm 139, I am aware many in our state and country are praying Psalm 13 after Tuesday afternoon.

Psalm 138 is a jubilant expression of God’s majesty over all the powers of the earth, proclaiming God’s protection over all the kings of the world.  I pray the people of Uvalde know that God will win over the evil and apathy in our world, and that they know God’s people are on their side.  However, one song back in the hymnbook is Psalm 137, which expresses the immense outrage of the Israelites at being forced to sing God’s songs in a strange and foreign land.  As much as I hope for Psalm 138, I’m aware many in our state and country are looking at the seemingly constant stream of evil, hate, and despair and exclaiming, “This is not supposed to happen!”

Psalm 40 gives words of praise to those God has delivered into a new life of hope, although they still struggle with a hardship.  I pray the people of Uvalde will one day be able to say these words confidently, knowing that God bends evil to God’s will WHILE the scars of trauma never really leave us.  However, as I write this I’m aware of many in our state and country who feel closer to the words Jesus spoke on the cross from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

There’s a Psalm for every occasion – and that’s unfortunate.  It’s unfortunate, because I wish we never had to lament as often as the Psalmists do.

Like many, I was outraged and saddened by the evil action that has, up to this point, led to the senseless murder of 18 2nd-4th   graders, 1 teacher, and the hospitalization/injury of many others in Uvalde, Texas.  I will admit that I was upset the shooter had been killed because I wanted him to have to answer in this life for his crimes.  My thoughts echoed the rage expressed at the end of Psalm 137, as the Israelites are being mocked and held hostage by the Babylonians, the Psalmist shouts his desire for revenge.  I was angry at the shooter.  I was angry that we seemingly haven’t even tried to tackle this problem since Columbine in 1999, when my junior year of high school was cancelled early and my senior year was traumatically filled with metal detectors, teachers turned into security guards, and a general environment of mistrust.  My anger was pent up from 27 school shootings in 2022 alone after we all said “Never again,” after Sandy Hook and Parkland.  I couldn’t believe that this is our world – our state – but I’m thankful that I’m still shocked.

But my outrage turned to sadness when I realized that the Psalmists were writing these words 3,000-4,000 years ago.  Which means my outrage is nothing new…nor is my sadness…nor is my mourning.  There is a Psalm for the negative occasions because we aren’t the first to encounter evil, hatred, and apathy.  It breaks my heart and I join the company of those singing Psalm 13, “How long, O LORD?”

But what also isn’t new…is hope.

I originally intended to provide a bit of Methodist history in this week’s Deep Thoughts.  Tuesday was also Aldersgate Day, a day that commemorates an experience John Wesley had listening to Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans” in which Wesley felt a strange “warming of the heart” and an assurance of God’s presence with him and his salvation through God’s grace.  At first I was perplexed by the juxtaposition of God’s assuring presence with a world that suffers 11 mass shootings in the last 10 days ranging from Milwaukee to Chicago to California to Florida to Texas, on top of a war in Ukraine, mass oppression in Yemen and China (amongst others), and a growing divide in the States between the rich and the poor – but after several rounds of typing, editing, and re-typing, it hit me that John Wesley had been asking the same question, “How long, O LORD?”  He was asking for assurance and peace.  He was asking for hope and promise.  He was also someone that questioned the society around him such as, “How long will we suffer the evils of slavery?”  “How long will we leave the poor as outcasts and starving?”  “How long will we subject children to dangerous conditions?” (in this case he was referring to child labor).

I get a spark of hope when people are paying attention enough to lament, “How long?”

What I’d like to believe is that we care enough to make ourselves uncomfortable enough to ensure the comfort and safety of people who go to school, worship, the grocery store, the subway, or an NBA game.  I’d like to believe that we are so weary of this kind of news that we won’t stop with, “It’s a complicated issue,” and instead push ourselves, our communities, and our elected officials to ask what the church has asked for 4,000 years, “How long?”

But most of all, I get hope from the long history of the Methodist Church turning lamenting questions into meaningful, productive action.  The outrage and revenge displayed in Psalm 137 isn’t productive.  To perpetuate cycles of violence through harmful rhetoric or action and create wider divisions and more stringent barriers isn’t productive.  To be so outraged and weary that we recluse into our own worlds and ignore the outside problems isn’t productive.  To feel content in our own safety while our siblings suffer isn’t productive.  Instead, what is productive is to engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Whether this is a gun control issue, a mental health issue, a social outcast issue, a hate issue, a prejudice issue, a lack of community issue, a parenting issue, or any combination of the possibilities; the Gospel compels us to create a world so full of compassion, hospitality, love, and welcome that the motivations behind these tragic episodes cease to exist OR we are so attentive to those who are hurting that we know who needs help and how to get them help.  The Gospel compels us to care – to never stop asking, “How long?”  I’m proud of our very own North Texas Conference clergy for passing a resolution to speak out about and act out against hate crimes, and I constantly pray that Creekwood will be a people of such faithful Christian practice that we will be known as Christ’s disciples by our loving actions for those in need of hope and/or transformation.

I wish there didn’t have to be Psalms for every occasion.  I wish we didn’t have reason to lament.  But I’m hopeful because for as long as violence has existed there have been people equally as active beating swords into plowshares and loving their enemy.  May we never become so weary and worried that we don’t share in the new song of Psalm 40.  May we mourn with those who mourn, challenge ourselves and those whose apathy continues these cycles of violence, and live the Gospel of Christ so passionately that all may come to peacefully bow humbly before the Lord as equals, with no need to incite harm.  May we speed along God’s preferred world, so that Jesus has less work to do when he returns.


David Lessner

Here is a good podcast on how to talk to your kids about mass events of violence.

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