Yesterday, yet another mass school shooting occurred here in America. 17 dead. It is sad, mind-boggling, and just plain unacceptable. And it happened on a sacred day for Christians: Ash Wednesday, a day when the devout remember they belong to God and enter a season of focused prayer, repentance, and fasting.
Because it is the season of Lent, the Lectionary readings include prayers. I have always encouraged folks to adopt the prayers of the Bible and use them as their own. I also often personalize the prayers for contemporary issues and problems. This is what I’m doing today with Daniel’s prayer of confession. Denial is not an option. Simply wishing things were different doesn’t make it so. For the Christian, change begins with looking evil square in the face and confessing it. Daniel did just that because of his people’s indifference. I ask you to pray with me today. I have taken the liberty to form Daniel’s prayer as the basis for my own. It isn’t the entire prayer of Daniel; the rest of the prayer comes with tomorrow’s reading. But for today, it is confession:
Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps your promises and is truly faithful to all who love you and keep your commands:
There’s no good way to say this: We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and Your laws to love you, and love our neighbors by not killing each other with guns. We haven’t listened to Your Son, the Lord Jesus, or to Your Holy Spirit speaking to us in Your Holy Word. Our leaders and all the people of this land have given You the stiff-arm through the allowance of perpetual evil.
Righteousness belongs to you, my Lord! But we are ashamed this day—we, the people of the United States of America, the inhabitants of this great nation, whether in New York or California, in Texas or Minnesota, in whatever state we reside both geographically and spiritually – we have broken faith with you.
Lord, we are ashamed—we, our President, our Congressional leaders, and people everywhere have sinned against you. Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, because we rebelled against you. We didn’t listen to the voice of the Lord our God by following the teachings you gave us through your messengers. All of America broke your warnings and turned away, ignoring your voice to love, and not murder.
A curse has swept over us because we sinned against you, God. Our children are dead, yet we continue to bicker and fight amongst ourselves while instruments of destruction continue to abound in the hands of unstable people.
God, you have brought great trouble on us. What happened in Florida, Las Vegas, Newtown, Virginia Tech, and a hundred other places hasn’t happened anywhere else in the entire world! All this trouble came upon us, yet we didn’t try to reconcile with You and Your teachings by turning from our wrongdoing or by finding wisdom in the faithfulness of Your loving character and compassion. Lord, You have been right in every move you’ve made in giving us a clear moral code to live by, the Holy Spirit to help us, but we haven’t listened to Your voice….