Yesterday I had the poignant honor of reading two of my litanies, one for an interfaith vigil honoring and mourning those 50 LGBTQ+ persons killed in the attack in Orlando, and another at a subsequent vigil hosted by Austin Pride. A couple of Muslim leaders spoke, calling for an end to violence, extolling the mercy and compassion of God. Several members of the LGBTQ+ community spoke, exhorting the community to combat hate with love. The mayor of Austin and a few other local politicians spoke. A Rabbi gave a lovely blessing and sang peace over us. A handful of Christians spoke (I actually prefer the term Follower of Jesus, but, ahem), myself included along with Ben, one of the pastors of my church.
I hardly know how I got there, except I know somebody who knows somebody, and so forth, and Ben brought me along, and somehow following Jesus tends to take us to unexpected places (the glorious run-on sentence of faith-life). I am nobody these people know, so why should they listen to me? I have no title, nor am I technically a vocational “faith leader.” And yet, there I was, hands full of prayers I’ve written, being handed a microphone. Prayers about grief, terrorism, justice and equality, suffering. The best I could offer to a wounded community.
I thanked God that I had written these prayers, that they were ready and available and potentially helpful in a time of deep tragedy, at the same time that I felt sad that I’d ever had to write such prayers; sad that we must have language for such grief.
In between the two vigils, a group of hundreds of us marched down the streets of Austin with a police escort, from one vigil to another, demonstrating our solidarity with those who have been lost, and with the vibrant community who lost them. I had never been to an event like this. I had never even considered events like this to be of much use; obviously, I got schooled. I’d never really understood the point of marching. I’d never understood that marching is more about the hearts of the people who march than it is about observers or political statements or news-making.
I thought of that horde of folks, marching around the Galilean countryside, traipsing after Jesus; they had gotten so focused on following that they neglected to bring food. They needed Jesus to feed them in more ways than one. I thought of Jesus’ compassion on them, on their hunger, when he could have said too bad so sad you dummies walked out into the wilderness uninvited with no food. What must those folks have felt as they marched? What was happening in their hearts? I can tell you I still don’t fully understand marching but I have a new appreciation for it. There is something to be said for walking with people.
I am not a part of the LGBTQ+ community, not even peripherally. But I have a new level of love for those folks and what they’ve endured, what they are still enduring. I want to stand in solidarity with them in their grief and loss and fear and in the great temptation to give hate for hate. I have been given a new heart, yet again. As I spoke to folks and looked in their eyes I felt anew the love of God for each person, going out, going out, going out; just like it always does.
A bigot is a person who is intolerant of people who have a different way of thinking. I have never considered myself a bigot (who does?). In fact I have tried hard to NOT be a bigot. I know a few bigots and they aren’t pleasant people (and yet the Love of God is going out, going out, going out to them). But I think there are ways bigotry slips in unacknowledged. I think there are ways I have been bigoted without even realizing it. There are patterns of thought my mind has followed that were maybe taught to me, or maybe assumed, and that maybe ignorance has perpetuated.
So I offer this prayer, along with an invitation for you to come alongside me in praying it.
Have mercy on us sinners.
We confess our blindness.
We confess our small-mindedness.
We confess our tendency to think that what we think about the hearts of others is always true.
We confess our judgment and suspicion of things and people unfamiliar to or different from us.
We confess our inability to perfectly follow the Way of Love.
Of bigotry, we repent.
Of condemnation, we repent.
Of lack of compassion, we repent.
Of ignorance, we repent.
Of unwillingness to walk with people You love, we repent.
Keep on giving us new hearts.
Keep on shaping our minds and our perspectives.
Keep on training us in the Way of Love.
Keep on refreshing our understanding of Jesus.
Keep on expanding our minds, even as Your Kingdom is expanding.
Don’t give up on us, even when we are stubborn and self-righteous.