First: Do What You Know, Even If You Don’t Believe in Angels

If someone were to ask you, “Quick! Recite something from a Psalm,” you’d likely go to “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23)
Or if they asked you to (quick as you can!) recite a prayer that’s not a table grace, you might start off, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallow/ed be thy name…” (Mtt. 6:9-13)
This week was another one of those “Quick!!…DO something!” kind of weeks, and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of what happened and why, election this-and-that. I choose not to write about that part, but rather… the fear, the mourning, the healing we pray for.  It is the time to be galvanized, connected, and ready to continue creating the change we need in the world.
I do not agree with the prognosticators saying, “Don’t curl up in a ball.” “Don’t run away.” If you need to do that for however long it takes, go ahead! I certainly did, and I loathed the idea that someone should tell me to “just cheer up” when my body and my spirit wasn’t ready to do that.
Take as long as you need.
Your friends, your supporters, your caregivers, your prayer chain and assembled group of “we are thinking of you and remembering your grief,” we are here, and we are ready to proceed when you are. What’s the rush in getting it all back in order?
I’ll get more into shock reactions and the darkness I felt later on, as the memory of all that becomes less raw. I will keep politics out of the mix, and I will not preach any particular sort of salvation.
Ours is – after all – just a pause.
My first go to, when I was able to have prayerful thoughts again, was to turn to the Order of Compline in the Episcopal prayer book. It’s my favorite of all the services in the book. Not because it’s so short (you can get through it reading aloud in under 20 minutes) but because it is concise with extremely lyrical prayers about how we ask for God’s protection during the over-night, until the next day arrives.
One of the prayers speaks of angels, and that one sounds out to me today, because my first prayer I could say out loud was
“Protect me.”
I didn’t feel my safety was at risk even though I fear that for others around me. I prayed that because of what another Compline prayer describes as the changes and chances of this life. That is kind-of what’s going on right now. The prayer goes on to remind us of the eternal changelessness of God. Whatever awful, stupid crap happens around us, this one part of our experience with the universe never changes.
The prayer that popped to my Quick! reaction is this one:
Visit this place, O LORD, and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessings be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 – Amen
Protect me. Protect us all. Guide us away from wrong choices if that’s possible and if not, help us to learn quickly from our missteps.  If angels aren’t your thing nor this whole Christian gig, think of that phrase as: show us all our better angels. Show us that there is life beyond today, and that it is our vocation to live it.
If I can go to sleep and rest in that great changelessness (faith), then tomorrow, just maybe, the day will be a tiny bit brighter than today (hope.) 
Be good to each other and be there for each other. Give folks time to step into sunlight at their own pace. What’s the hurry? Healing comes as it comes and will not be rushed.
Keep the faith!
 – Amen
A little song from my Sunday School days that I didn’t even realize had verses. I have certainly sang the refrain all my life.

Angels Watching Over Me.

All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching Over Me (My Lord)
All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching, Over Me
You Can Accuse Me,
You Can Even Abuse Me,
You Can Drive Me From The Cold
(The Angels, Keep Watching, Over Me)
You, You Can Crucify This Old Body,
Oh, But You Can Not, You Can’t Touch
My Soul…
(Yes, The Angels Keep Watching… Over Me.)
I Haven’t … Been To Heaven
But… I’m Surely, I’m Surely
On My Way… Oh, (Background)
I Am Walking… With My Jesus
Every Night… And Every Day..
(Yes, The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me.)
In The Midnight, When I Get In Trouble
When I Lay, Me Down To Sleep, Oh….
(The Angels, Keep Watching,… Over Me)
I Don’t Wonder, And I Don’t Have To Worry, For I Know The Lord, My Soul He’ll Keep.
(The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me)
,
,
,

Candle Lighting Prayers against gun violence

These prayers are suggested for use during a candlelight (and prayer?) vigil. They are  prayers said while lighting the main candle. This selection is written for multiple readers, or you may choose as many/few selections as is appropriate for your use.

This set of prayers is adapted from a community non-denominational service against gun violence, see the credits at the end.

Note that the red asterisk [ ** ] is a “breath mark” or a pause mark where the reader make take a short pause while reading.


Candlelight Vigil Prayers

Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the victims of gun violence, both those who have been injured and those who have been killed, in our nation and especially [location.] **

We hold their memories dear. **

We treasure those lives permanently altered through injury or those taken in senseless acts of violence, **

and we pray that they might find rest and peace. **

May their lives continue to make a difference in our world. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Light, heal our broken hearts.

 

Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the families and friends of the victims of gun violence in our nation and especially [location.] **

Comfort those who mourn. **

Dry the tears of those who weep. **

Sustain those who feel diminished. **

Impart courage to the hearts of those who feel helpless. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Peace, sustain our broken hearts.

 

Reader 3

We light this candle in remembrance of all communities torn apart by gun violence. **

We are too familiar with places like Columbine High School and Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Roseburg, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas, Orlando, Florida.  ** **

The memory of them is intolerable. Each of these incidents of violence affects all of us in our daily lives and work. **

Grant us strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Renew our resolve to respect the dignity of all human beings. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Comfort, encourage our broken hearts.

 

Reader 4

We light this candle in remembrance of first responders, including police, fire
and rescue personnel who witness the horror of gun violence while in service to
our communities, and for all those with responsibility for law enforcement. **

We give thanks for their call to protect and serve and to seek justice, which is inspirational
to others, **

and we pray that their emotional wounds will be healed. **
Together we pray.
All: God of Courage, inspire our broken hearts.

 

Reader 5

We light this candle for those lives taken by gun violence through suicide, **

and also for those lives taken through accidental shootings, **

especially when those shootings involve children. **  **

Console and strengthen those whose despair is great. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Mercy, comfort our broken hearts.

 

Reader 6

We light this candle in remembrance of all people impacted by gun violence, **

as gun violence knows no boundaries but can affect all nationalities, races, cultures, genders, and socioeconomic classes; **

it effects us regardless of who we choose to love, and those who choose to love us; **

it can affect us where we live, where we worship, where we work, where we study, and where we play. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Love, transform our broken hearts.

 

Reader 7

We light this candle for those who have committed acts of gun violence and for their families, in our nation and especially [location.]  **

We remember those suffering from mental illness who have gone untreated,  **

we remember those suffering from loneliness and isolation. **

We pray for those who would use guns, power and violence rather than respect and dignity to reconcile differences. **

Grant us the strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Forgiveness, enlighten our broken hearts.

 

Reader 8

We light this candle to pray for ourselves and others in our lives who have been touched by gun violence. **

During the silent pause, we invite you to offer the names either silently or aloud of those for whom you pray. (the group / crowd / congregation is invited to add their personal names aloud or remember them in their hearts.) ** ** ** ** **

Together we pray.
All: God of Astonishing Mercy, Compassion and Immeasurable Love, restore our broken hearts and enliven our confidence to find new ways to revive our world to become a world of peace.

Amen.
So be it.
آمن‎‎

 

An appropriate song:

This Little Light of Mine
sung by Odetta

 

 

 

 

 


 

credit: bishopsagainstgunviolence.org prayer service bulletin: “A Moral Call: People of Faith Confronting the Tragedy of Gun Violence.” Sunday, December 13, 2015, 2015. First Unitarian Universalist Society, Burlington, VT.

 

 

 

 

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A Litany For Gun Violence

(This litany was written for Gun Violence Sabbath – December 13, 2015. It is appropriate any day, and any place where we are confronted by the senseless evil of murder by guns. This Litany was composed by Rt. Rev. Steven T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Vermont.)


Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.

For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, and [n.], our Governor, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, (more than 30,000 this year,) in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of love and harmony,
Loving God
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.

Amen.


The intercessor / reader / leader reads the text in plain text, and the group / congregation joins in reading the bold type. The italicized type is optional, or the numbers can be adjusted by year – the 30,000 shown is for 2015.)


A suitable hymn:

Abide With Me
hymn tune: EVENTIDE

 

 

Abide With Me
lyrics by Henry F. Lyte, 1847

based on Luke 24:29

“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”

 

  1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
  4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
  5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

 

 

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