Those were the words inviting us to a Prayer Vigil for Orlando at our neighborhood church, South Euclid United Church of Christ. It was a quiet and reflective time to be together in our shock and grief and outrage over the tragedy that unfolded at Pulse nightclub on what began as a festive and fun Saturday night. We read together a Litany of Life and Death, we listened (and cried) as the names of the deceased were read — who were for the most part the ages of our adult children. A prayer was offered for the LGBTQ community by Rev. Dr. Todd Davidson, and I was asked to pray for an end to gun violence and for violence reform. Before I prayed, I presented Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins with an orange stole hand-made by Rev. Rosalind Hughes who has made it her mission to clothe 50+ clergy in orange in the last month. Rev. Courtney’s ministry goes deep into my neighborhood and much more of Cuyahoga County. No doubt — and sadly — she will have occasion to wear orange which has become the color for gun violence remembrance and activism
Here are the words of my prayer:
God – by whatever name we call you. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. God of love and grace. By whatever name we call you, You call each of us by name. God – however we choose to worship You — we are blessed to live in a country in which we enjoy religious freedom to do so. Our faith in You must unite us rather than separate us.
God of peace and justice, light and life. You are present with us in the world as it is. And You are the One who challenges us to be agents of change for we know the world is not as you intended it to be.
You are our God who cries over these 50 lives lost to a senseless act of evil and hate. We find much needed comfort that your tears fall together with our own. Tears for the dead. Tears for the injured. Tears for countless ripples of effect among friends and family who grieve this unspeakable loss. Tears for those who stand by in hospital ICU’s praying for miracles of healing.
We come in prayer tonight for this most recent of gun massacres in our country. This time the place is in Orlando in a nightclub named Pulse. This time it is 50 LGBTQ lives ended by an assault rifle (AR15) fired rapidly and over the course of several tortuous hours. The day before, it was a young aspiring singer, Christina Grimmie, gunned down in the same city. Yesterday here in Cleveland it was at the corner of 93rd & Harvard where a man and a woman were gunned down. Killed at a gas station. Any day, God – every day God – we could be praying over 90 people who will die at the wrong end of a gun. Tonight we are standing in a church sanctuary, but we could be standing in an elementary school classroom. Or a movie theater. At a mall. At a church like Mother Immanuel Church in Charleston, SC. Or a workplace in San Bernardino. We could stand with victims of domestic violence whose abusers still can own a gun. With children who find an unsecured gun in their home. We could stand at gravesides for babies caught in the crossfire on our streets.
God, where shall we go to flee from the violence? And You answer, that is not your call. You say to us as people of faith, your call is to stand right where you are. To stand for the world God intends this to be, to unite as people of peace – followers of Jesus, lifting our voices to say Enough. Not One More. Not one more child. Not one more adult. Not one more preventable accident. Not one more hate crime. Our call is to say our love for you, God, must come before our love for guns. Our obedience must be to the Commandment — Thou shalt have no other gods before me. And we shall not kill. Our example must be Jesus who told Peter to put his weapon away, knowing he would then face death on a cross.
God, we pray for your forgiveness for all the times when we have shed tears over a gun death only to go about our daily lives, for the many times we have considered only ourselves and our safety or sport and have not involved ourselves when we could have and should have, and more lives have been lost. Now, God, hear our prayers for guidance for our next steps – there have to be next steps. There must be movement forward on this issue. We pray for our commitment to ending gun violence to be strong and for our voices to be loud and passionate for people’s right to life. It will be difficult to be heard above the strident opposition, and we do not expect this to be easy. If we say that we love all of humanity, we must not stand idly by and allow haters their will. We must not stand idly by and let our lawmakers stand idly by, let off the hook once again for their callous inaction.
You have promised to wipe away our tears, God. You have promised there will be a day when death will be no more, when mourning and crying and pain will cease. But today is not that day. Today is the day to act, to speak out as people of faith, to act as citizens in voting for change and to put an end to the violence. We must ask what would Jesus do, and then with the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we must do it.
In Christ’s name, Amen.
Rev. Kris Eggert
Pastor. Parent. Activist
Co-Founder, God Before Guns