Faithful Democracy held a prayer vigil today expressing gratitude and lifting up the need for bold, comprehensive reforms in government and the democratic process. I was invited to participate and I offered the following reflection and prayer:
A reading from Isaiah 58:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
One thing that is most clear from this election is that the United States is a mission field. I don’t mean that in a way that we need to go out and cojole and coerce people into some kind of forced conversion. It seems pretty clear that the Jesus that so many claim to believe in this country in is not the Jesus of the Bible or history. Not the Jesus that the church holds up and proclaims. Not the Jesus that we hear in Scripture. Not the Jesus who opened the prophets like Isaiah and declared justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive, relief for the poor, welcome for the stranger, and more.
Instead, he’s the Jesus that many have created in their own image, likeness, and beliefs – and this Jesus has been manipulated and used for political purposes to pursue the real god that far too many worship – power at all costs. Jesus’ message is co-opted from being one where we are called to love our neighbor into a message where all we care about is taking care of ourselves. Jesus’ message is abused from love and peace being the way to live and be and relate with one another into a destructive message where the ends justify the means. And Jesus’ message is squashed from a strong preference for the poor and oppressed into a deadly message where only the strong survive. This abuse of Jesus, his message and his calling must end.
We gather today in prayer. But what shall we pray for? Certainly pray that specific reforms may be implemented that would bring justice to people. Reforms that would allow us to better carry out what Isaiah talks about – Loosening the bonds of injustice, letting the oppressed go free, bread for the hungry, homes for the homeless, being repairers of the breach. To be a light in the darkness. We also pray for an end to voter suppression, that money would again become the servant instead of the master of our politics, that our government be cleansed of corruption and political idolatry, and that legislation may be passed and signed into law that moves our nation towards being a healthy democracy.
We have a breach in our nation – one that has existed for a long time. A divide. A great chasm. One that seems insurmountable. Yet nothing is impossible with God. Our prayer isn’t about putting the weight of the world on our shoulders. It is not to make ourselves the savior of the nation. We aren’t and we can’t. It is a prayer of transformation – no different than what we hear in Isaiah. Only God can accomplish this. God hears our plea. And the Spirit goes out into the world and empowers God’s followers to be living prayers, to put faith into action, guided by the Spirit. Ready to face the breach, the willful stubbornness, the hardened hearts, and the maintainers of unjust systems. But that will not stop God. It can’t. All of that will not last. It never does. It always fails and it always falls.
The Spirit empowers God’s followers to be congruent. To move us from being concerned that we only speak the right words, to moving us to live them out because God abides in us and compels us to live out the core of who we are – We are people who are transformed by God. We know that God is already active in our world and here in this country. God is on a mission. We heard that mission in Isaiah. We are invited to participate in that mission. To be repairers of the breach and restorers of streets to live in. To bring justice to our democracy and our democratic processes. To be the light.
Please pray with me. God of justice, hear our prayer. You care for the nations, including this nation. And for the people who reside here. You desire nations to practice and live into justice. We call on you to touch the hearts of elected officials and policy makers to implement the path forward to transform our democracy through bold, comprehensive, and meaningful reforms in the next Congressional session and beyond. Your vision is bold O Holy One. It is all encompassing. Your vision is not subject to human limitations and boundaries. It is a vision that is transformational because you are in the business of transforming all of creation. We pray that you would touch the hearts of elected officials, that their ears would be opened to hear the voices of wisdom and reform and the voices of those who have been harmed silenced by unjust systems. We pray that our elected officials’ eyes may be opened to see how you desire good governance. Give us courage to speak up on behalf of your people. They cry out for your bold vision. Let your kingdom come Lord. And make us instruments of your vision and your ways. Amen.