How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
agony filling my heart? Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me
-- Psalm 13:1-2 (CEB translation)
These words immediately came to mind last week after the murders in Buffalo, New York.
I have been slow to respond to the racist murders because, frankly, I have had to write you too often about such things. Is this just one more time?
As you know, I have shared the following with the Diocese in recent months:
Racial Justice Audit of Episcopal Leadership and Becoming Beloved Community from The Episcopal Church.
Sacred Ground , a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups are invited to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity. The 10-part series is built around a powerful online curriculum of documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories.
The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing whose Mission is to provide tools and experiences that allow faith communities – and the larger community of individuals – to engage in dismantling racism through education, prayer, dialogue, pilgrimage, and spiritual formation.
As a Diocese, we have a Reconciliation Task Force that has offered speakers, programs, and opportunities to share in person and online over the past couple of years at education days. Their work is ongoing (the Co-Conveners are Jazzy Bostock and Andrew Arakawa).
We as God’s people are trying to overcome racism and division, but hate, anger, prejudice, and violence seem to be constant. It is not – it is never – enough. Why do people carry such hate?
Then this morning, we are shocked again by the murders of elementary school students and a teacher in Uvalde, Texas. We must be horrified.
The words of Psalm 13 returned to me over and over again as the news from Texas flashed over my iPhone.
Psalm 13 is the shortest of the prayers for help in the Psalter. It gives voice to a cry, a protest. This Psalm allows us to claim our anger at the others and, even, at God. Verses 3 and 4 expressed my frustration at gun violence and our collective unwillingness to do anything about it:
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
I hold a robust understanding of sin. Human beings can act in frailty and despair to harm ourselves and others. Some act with malicious intent. Others act out to gain security or prosperity. In our time, the means to harm is intense. The systems of sharing hate manifold.
For us as the followers of Jesus Christ, I think we are called to maintain three things in our lives:
- Fidelity: Our faith in God keeps us from trusting too much in the political, national, financial, and social systems of the world around. We know such things are as limited and finite as we are ourselves.
- Authenticity: Our actions must match our words and thoughts. As Episcopalians, that compels us again and again to the promises made at Baptism. Am I living the life I promised to take up in my Baptism?
- Honesty: Yes, that is being truthful, but more it is about being honest with oneself. Have I fooled myself?
It begins with us – with me – to nurture the garden of the soul and pull up the weeds of hate, anger and prejudice that choke out the vine of love.
The last two verses of Psalm 13 (5 and 6) reminded me this day where to turn:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
It is yet again a day of tears and failure as a nation. We must not falter.
I leave you with four prayers today:
- Father of all, we pray to you for those killed in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, and for all those who have died by violence. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
- Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray, with all who mourn; that, casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Compassionate God, Draw near to us in times of sorrow and anguish, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, lead us all to fullness of life, and make us into your community of love; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
Aloha ma o Iesu Kristo, ko mākou Haku,