Litany for I'm Sorry

I had planned to post a litany today about Trump and Hillary (and about Jesus), which I feel pretty excited about sharing. But I just can’t do it; it will have to wait. I can’t turn off all the feelings I feel about the Orlando shooting. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about how a specific community of people was targeted and systematically put to death in cold blood by a maniac. I have had to monitor my intake of news about it, lest it overwhelm me completely. I feel guilty saying that sentence because some people don’t have a choice about whether or not this thing will overwhelm them, because it has definitely, without a doubt, overwhelmed them with sorrow, grief, loss, lament, pain, despair, hopelessness.

And then I read some folks criticizing church folks for waiting until now, until something completely tragic and unthinkable has happened, to extend any kindness toward the LGBT community. Which is kind-of valid, church. Although it’s also kind-of valid that a lot of us have been loving and welcoming LGBT folks all along we just haven’t made any headlines about it. So that feels kind-of dismissive, but then again maybe we should have been a little louder about our love. But then again we’ve all just been doing our damndest to live well in the context we are in, to see as far as our horizon will let us, and try to be some kind of bridge people between the ideologies that keep us in tension all the stinking time. Which is exhausting but I shouldn’t be complaining because I’m not the one getting persecuted and gunned down and I probably don’t even know the meaning of exhausted in comparison.

Do you see the complexity here? Do you see how many feelings it might be possible for anyone on any side of this to feel? Do you see the rabbit holes it is possible for a person’s mind to go down, how many guilts it is possible to internalize, how many sorrows it is possible to become engulfed by, how frustrated it is possible to get? Or is that just me?

Let me dial this down for us:
God loves human beings; that’s God’s thing. If we are not about the business of loving human beings, then we are not doing God’s thing; we are doing something else, and woe to us.

To the LGBTQ community, in which I have friends and family and beloved folks:
I’m sorry I didn’t live my love louder before now.
I’m sorry the society we live in left the door wide open for this to happen, and for all the ways I’m complicit in that society.
I’m sorry the church-section I’m a part of has done such a shitty job of loving you, and for all the ways I’ve been complicit in that.
I’m sorry for every time I’ve ever missed an opportunity to love you, to listen to you, or to walk beside you in companionable silence.
I’m sorry we haven’t gotten far enough along in our relationship to trust one another with deep things.

I believe that Jesus is for you.
I believe that the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus, is for you.
I believe that when Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest,” He means you, too.
I believe that God made you, God loves you, and God is pouring out love upon love indiscriminately on you all your life.

I want to do better at getting in line with God’s agenda on that.
I want to do better at trading stories with you and hearing your heart.
Forgive me.

 

God:
We, the church, Your body on earth, turn to You in humility and contrition, confessing our failure at loving our LBGTQ brothers and sisters well.

We’ve insulated ourselves.
We’ve turned a blind eye to injustice.
We’ve perpetuated misunderstanding.
We’ve capitulated to fear.
We’ve withheld help and concern.
We’ve cheapened the grace of Jesus.
We’ve forgotten that, of faith, hope, and love; love is greatest.

We know that where we are inadequate, You are more than enough.
We know that there is always redemption when Jesus is around.
We know that Jesus is always where the pain is.

Our hearts mourn for the pain we have caused.
We are sorry.
Help us to be better at following the Way of Love.

Amen
 

Litany for Repentance From Bigotry

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.

Marching, Marching, down Congress

Marching, Marching, down Congress

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.

 

Compassionate God,
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.

Amen