Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pentecost Weekend Lament for Ahmaud, Breonna, & George

A Pentecost 2020 Weekend Lament for the Murders of Ahmaud Arbery (February 23), Breonna Taylor (March 13), and George Floyd (May 25), along with preparing for the 5-Year Anniversary Loss of 9 African American People Made in the Image of God from Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, for the 4-Year Anniversary Loss of 49 LGBTQI+ People Made in the Image of God from the Pulse Nightclub on Sunday, June 12, 2016, and for the 3-Year Anniversary Acquittal of the Officer Who Killed Philando Castile on Friday, June 16, 2017  

We cry out together, "How long, O Lord?!"  
How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? Consider me and answer, Lord my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death. My enemy will say, “I have triumphed over him,” and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously. 
+ Psalm 13 
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Show us how You are treating and will treat our sisters and brothers in communities of color with faithful love, deliverance, and generous just mercy today.

Many continue to express the grief and anger necessary, and I continue to bow my head with them, nod, and groan in the Spirit ... again and again and again ... Here were some of my own words on Mother's Day weekend just a few weeks ago ...

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. How long, Lord?! Not again. Mourning with all our beloved sisters and brothers of color, especially with the mothers on this Mother's Day weekend who have already shed so many tears and suffered excruciating loss, who are crying out, "Why?!" again. " ... Let justice roll like a river, like a river let it roll (to the pavement where the blood of Ahmaud Arbery cries out from the concrete) ... " I encourage you to listen and sing "Rose Petals" with all those who are grieving over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and longing for justice ... " ... I'm asking you to look at all these roses with petals on the ground, they call this one Ahmaud Arbery. ... "  And as a question and a cry for justice, sing "How Much Longer?" alongside the beloved Ike Ndolo and Common Hymnal to complement "Rose Petals" as a cry through the tears.

And here are still more words this week (also see video Pre-Pentecost Devotional: God Sends Help and Keedron Bryant's powerful, "I Just Wanna Live") in light of the news of George Floyd being killed ... 

With the release of the recording of the George Floyd murder this week, May 2020 has unleashed a string of awful videos of brutal injustices against people of color that will forever be seared in our minds and hearts. In the shock and suffering, may the Spirit of God use the searing to light a growing flame of justice in action as we lament with our sisters and brothers as well as lay down our lives so that they know they are not and will never be alone in this fight.

There never seems to be enough words and actions to stop this. God, help us! So we are going to lament again with this updated call to worship – based on the One Church Liturgy created five years ago for the tragedy involving Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and now offered anew for the families and communities who are wailing this month in light of Ahmaud Arbery's, Breonna Taylor's, and George Floyd's murders (was also utilized in previous years to lament with the families and communities impacted by the Pulse Nightclub massacre four years ago and the families and communities impacted by the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile three years ago).

A Call to Worship and Lament for Recognizing the Murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd

We stand before You today, oh Lord
Hearts broken, eyes weeping, heads spinning.
People made in Your image have been killed, 
including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
People turned on them in violence
And now we are turning to You in prayer.

We stand with the Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd families and the
African American community.
We collapse with all those still weeping on the streets and in their homes.
We kneel to bear the burdens in Jesus’ name.

We cry out to You, oh Lord.
The violence in our streets continues to break out from our dark hearts.
The hatred in our cities has crept into our stubborn minds.
The brokenness in our lives has broken out into the lives of others once again.
We also pray for our enemies and those who join with the enemy 
to steal, kill, and destroy.
We pray we will not react and respond with the deceiver 
and prince of the power of the air.
We pray we will move with the Prince of peace and King of kings.

We cry out to You!
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We cry out for peace in Jesus’ name.

We pray to You today, oh Lord:
We pray to the God of all Comfort to comfort those in their mourning.
We pray that You would bestow on them a crown of beauty in the ashes.
We pray that You would give them the oil of joy in their mourning.
We pray that You would give them a garment of praise that protects them against a spirit of despair.

We pray for their comfort in Jesus’ name.

We declare together, oh Lord:
We will continue to stand and cry and weep with those who weep.
We will continue to make a place of peace for even the enemies.
We will continue to open our doors and our hearts to those who enter them.
We will continue to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven.
We will continue to love in Jesus’ name because You taught us that love overcomes evil with good and covers a multitude of sins.

We declare our love through one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Church. 
We declare you do not grieve alone today.

Arise, Lord! Lift Up Your Just and Righteous Hand for the Afflicted

Arise, Lord! Lift up Your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But You, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
You consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
You encourage them, and You listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.

+ Psalm 10:12-15, 17-18

Let Justice Roll + Sojourn Worship

2015 A.D.

Forgive us Lord, for passing by 
When children cry for bread.
Forbid it Lord, that justice lie 
In tatters, cold and dead.
Outside these walls run desperate streets 
Where greed is law and life is cheap.
We bar the doors, refuse to see, 
Or hear the words You said:

Let justice roll like a river, like a river, let it roll!
Let justice roll like a river, like a river, let it roll!

Convict us Lord, we dance and laugh 
Ignoring those who weep.
Correct us Lord, our golden calf 
Has lulled our hearts to sleep.
The gap between the rich and poor 
Grows ever wider, shore to shore.
There’s racial hate, religious war 
And wolves among the sheep. 

Indwell us Lord, and purify 
Our hands to work for You.
Enlist us Lord, to serve nearby 
And ʻcross the waters, too.
Your image-bearers on the earth 
Will never know how much theyʼre worth
Unless we love and help them first 
And show the way to You!

The Lord is like a father to His children,
    Tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
For He knows how weak we are;
    He remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
    Like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
    As though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear Him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
Of those who are faithful to His covenant,
    Of those who obey His commandments!
The Lord has made the heavens His throne;
    from there He rules over everything. 

Let all that we are praise the Lord;
    With our whole hearts, we will praise His holy name.
Let all that we are praise the Lord;
    May we never forget the good things He does for us.
He forgives all our sins
    And heals all our diseases.
He redeems us from death
    And crowns us with love and tender mercies.
He fills our lives with good things.
    Our youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
The Lord gives righteousness
nd justice to all who are treated unfairly.

Psalm 103:13-19; 1-6 

We thank You that You are Immanuel – God with us.
Be with all those who are mourning.
Continue to be our Father of compassion we all desperately need. 
Continue to be the King of salvation we all desperately need.
Continue to be the Holy Comforter we all desperately need. 
Redeem us. Renew us. Refine us.
Save us and make us holy like You, full of grace and truth.
God, help us. God, forgive us.
Come, King Jesus, come.

The Kingdom Is Yours + Common Hymnal

2017 A.D.

Blessed are the ones who do not bury
All the broken pieces of their heart.
Blessed are the tears of all the weary
Pouring like a sky of falling stars.

Blessed are the wounded ones in mourning,
Brave enough to show the Lord their scars.
Blessed are the hurts that are not hidden,
Open to the healing touch of God.

The Kingdom is Yours, the Kingdom is yours,
Hold on a little more, this is not the end.
Hope is in the Lord, keep your eyes on Him.

Blessed are the ones who walk in kindness
Even in the face of great abuse.
Blessed are the deeds that go unnoticed,
Serving with unguarded gratitude.

Blessed are the ones who fight for justice,
Longing for the coming day of peace.
Blessed is the soul that thirsts for righteousness,
Welcoming the last, the lost, the least. (Chorus)

Blessed are the ones who suffer violence
And still have strength to love their enemies.
Blessed is the faith of those who persevere.
Though they fall, they'll never know defeat.

Helpful articles to remember what happened years ago: 

Orlando, Florida

NYT: Orlando Police Detail Battle to End Massacre at Gay Nightclub
OS: Orlando nighclub shooting: Read about the victims
OS: The sermon on Pulse you didn't hear at church
TM: Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando

Minneapolis, Minnesota

CNN: Officer who shot Philando Castile found not guilty on all counts
WP: Gun owners are outraged by the Philando Castile case. The NRA is silent.
LAT: With anguish and disbelief, Trevor Noah reflects on the Philando Castile verdict

P.S. For my more conservative Caucasian sisters and brothers, if you want to hear preaching truth to power from an African American brother with a historical, political, and spiritual, i.e. holistic, call to the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus, set aside 22+ minutes of time to listen to Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III's sermon "The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery" and prepare to be confronted, comforted, and conflicted in ways that will help you pray, return to the Bible and our nation's history, and consider how the family of God among people of color are looking to Jesus right now. You may disagree with and feel disrupted by some of what he says, but instead of reacting at first, sit with the sermon and ask the Spirit to help you discern what parts of the sermon you may need to receive in this moment in our nation's history. Rev. Dr. Moss III's book, Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair, is also a brief, profound read that asks the question, "Can preaching recover a Blues sensibility and dare speak with authority in the midst of tragedy?" while challenging preachers to preach with a "Blue Note sensibility," which speaks directly to the tragedies faced by our congregants without falling into despair.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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