Prayers for Reconciliation and Grace

I’ve been struggling to form a post about the recent court case in Florida.  I don’t know the details of what happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman that night.  I don’t know what was said in the courtroom that led to the decision of the jury.  I’m keenly aware of my removal from these issues and race is such a fiery topic, I’m afraid to approach it.  Yet as people of faith we need to figure out how to think about and react to a decision that affects our neighbors deeply.  I hear shock and anger from fellow pastors who work with urban congregations.  I know there are parents in my own community who are having conversations over the dinner table with their teenage children—conversations that include warnings about walking alone in their own neighborhoods.  The ripples from Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal will spread for many years to come. 
Our faith is living—it’s meant to be used at times like these.  How do we process societal issues and happenings through the lens of faith?  Undergirding the highly emotional topic of race (and in the Martin case, the death of a young boy) is our common belief in God’s emphasis on community and care for the neediest among us.  How do we as Christians engage Zimmerman and his family after the acquittal—are we going to ostracize them or work to bring them back into community?  How do we engage Martin’s family?  And most importantly—how do we work together to prevent something like this from happening again?  How do we create a world where kids (of any race) are safe as they walk their own streets?  Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA posted a tweet on Sunday asking, “Are we now ready to build a world in which George and Trayvon would be contemporaries in Jesus’ Good Samaritan story, not violent enemies?”  And Pastor Rick Warren’s simple tweet on Saturday said it all: “Hurt people hurt people.”
The first step is keeping our eyes open.  As much as we hope and wish race relations are getting better (and in many ways, they are), this case opened up a flood of emotions and reminded us there’s still work to be done.  I’m sharing some articles that are helping me process the events and learn why they’re so deeply hurtful for so many.  You may not agree with the assertions made.  It’s eye-opening reading nonetheless and helps us all view the outcome from a different perspective–for faith is also about opening ourselves up to other views.  The loving creator of the universe is big enough to hold you up when you feel your faith is challenged.  It will come out stronger on the other side.
I tried to find articles that weren’t terribly political, but let’s be real—this issue is inherently political.  But I think despite our political differences, the church should be the place where we can talk respectfully about these issues.  I welcome conversation.
Christena Cleveland wrote a helpful piece for The Exchange that challenged me.
Bishop Stacy Sauls lays out some provocative questions.
Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, thinks about how to hold unity in the church in the aftermath.
I’m sad to say I neglected to pray about the situation and its outcomes in church last Sunday.  It’s been on my mind ever since.  Lesson learned.  Here is my prayer: God of grace, pour your reconciling grace upon us as a community and a nation.  We pray for the loved ones of Trayvon Martin.  We pray for George Zimmerman and his family.  May we find ways to work for justice, peace and safety for all our children.  May our eyes be opened to the plights of our brothers and sisters.  We know your faith and love are strong enough to destroy shame, hatred and evil.  Use us as workers for your kingdom.  Amen.

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