Lord we will bow to you, to you alone and to no other God. Nothing hands have made, no art, no science, no nation, no people deserves our praise as you do. Two black holes collided in space 3 billion light years ago and the universe shook like a bowl full of jelly. We just heard about it – old news to you. On a moonless night, on the Oregon coast, I once lay on my back on a log and saw the expanse of the stars, the milky way, so close it felt like I could reach up and touch it, and yet so far away that I felt infinitely small and insignificant. I’ve stood on mount Hood on a sun-drenched day and felt the breeze and looked up the Hood River valley at trees so green and clouds so white and alpine lupine so blue that I thought I had never known colors before nor tasted water so sweet as that bubbling from a spring 7000 feet up on the mountain.
The prophet Isaiah said “The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!” [Isa. 55:12] We believe it because we’ve heard it. Recently scientists have questioned why beauty exists. Some have argued it is simply utilitarian – it is how we find a mate. But now a few have suggested we simply like beauty. That even birds and reptiles are drawn to that which they find beautiful. We live in a world of texture and sound and smell that gives us pleasure. You have made us lovers of beauty. The Universe is covered with your fingerprints. Like the Psalmist we cry out “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.” [Psalm 148]. There is simply none like you.
Whether our hearts are inclined to good or to evil your grace surrounds us. You are in the air we breathe. It gives you pleasure to surround us with joy. And yet humankind has abandoned stewardship of creation for a dollar. Unlike Adam we are not even trying to hide as we hear your footsteps approach. We have become arrogant bullies who destroy all that is lovely and all that is good in hurried pursuits of momentary gain – it is as the preacher said, “Vanity, vanity all is but vanity.” [Ecc.1:2]
We always knew we could not be our best selves, we knew that would come later, that would come in the end, but we’d hoped we could be our better selves, now we wonder if we can even be our good self. We fear we are failing even at that. There are other things in the news that have captured our attention. The violence we perpetrate on your creation extends to our neighbors. We are filled with horror at the present darkness that seems to be descending on our time. It is chaotic. Indiscriminate. Vicious. It seems beyond redemption. Bitter, poisonous words that flow from the lips of the high and the low alike seed violence and expose the darkness of our hearts. Our hearts are anxious and in the midst of this disregard for you, this present darkness, we feel less than courageous.
So, we affirm again, that you and you alone are worthy of our praise and we lean on the apostle Paul’s admonition to pray with rejoicing and thanksgiving. [Phil. 4:6-7] So, we come to you this morning asking three things:
First, for ourselves, guard our hearts. Help us keep our emotions in check. Help us to have the courage to walk in the light and speak the truth without fear. Keep us from panicking, but to reach for your hand as we try to walk on this troubled sea. Guard our minds, the way we think. Help us by the power of your spirit to be good critical thinkers who study both the Bible and the newspaper to discern our times. Guard our actions. That our lives reflect that we are a new creation. Gracious, peaceful, courageous in Christ.
Second, we pray for world leaders. God there are so many things to ask here. We ask that you cure them of their arrogance, humble them. Bring one of your children into their inner circle whose insight is so compelling that they cannot ignore it. A Daniel, a Nehemiah. Give them clarity of mind, unclouded by personal gain, ideology, or whim. Guide their hearts where you will as you do streams in the desert. [Proverb 21:11]. Be irresistible to those pretend to lead that they might be your agents of peace.
Last, we pray for those who have declared war on Christians. Many do so from ignorance or injury. Help our brothers and sisters who attempt to walk beside them. Protect them from harm. Give them loving hands, clarity of thought, and words of wisdom. Some oppose you and your children because Satan has taken over their hearts and minds. They live in a deep darkness of hate and violence. We know their numbers will increase as time runs its course. But please place a hedge of thorns around those who fall in their path. Hold them close. If necessary welcome them home. This is what is on our minds today. We are shaken by events in our town and across the globe. But we will refuse to hide our eyes from what is happening around us. We will lean into the world’s distress, to our city’s distress, to the distress of our neighbors and friends as Jesus did. We commit ourselves to your purposes, to heal, to soothe, to encourage, to confront evil in all its forms, and to spend ourselves if necessary for your will. Because you and you alone are worthy of our very lives.
In Jesus Name,
A Prayer written by Richard White / June 4th, 2017