I greet you in the name of the Christ, in whom we find compassion and comfort in times of distress.
For those who have the privilege of a pulpit this Sunday, I offer these thoughts in the hope that you will lead your congregations to reflect on the message of hope in this challenging time.
In 1930, Harry Emerson Fosdick penned the words to a familiar hymn. This hymn has deep meaning for us as we struggle to comprehend the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Lo! the hosts of evil round us scorn the Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.
Cure your children’s warring madness; bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.
Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving you whom we adore.
As I watch news reports of the violence a half a world away, I believe evil is incarnate in the killing of more than 120 civilians, many of whom are young people. It is incomprehensible that innocent lives would be sacrificed in the name of religious or political ideologies. Those who perpetrate such evil acts seek to create fear and terrorize others by their complete disregard for the value of life. These are actions that for us, “scorn the Christ” who is the Prince of Peace.
Without a strong foundation of faith in a God of love made known in Jesus Christ, we would cower in anger and distress. Without belief in the power of God to transform the ways of those who are evil, we would condemn the perpetrators without asking for their transformation. Apart from our faith in Jesus Christ, we would shrink from fear because of these acts of terrorism!
Therefore, even in this time of shock, dismay, grief, and anger, I ask you to lean upon your faith and fervently pray: “From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith and praise. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.” We are not called live in fear, but rather to live courageously and faithfully. Let this be our prayer!
If we truly deplore evil as we say we do, let us order our lives so that we may courageously demonstrate our commitment to that which is good and just. Moreover, let us pray that we would never let fear grip us so tightly that we are unable to live in peace with one another. Let us pray that we will be connected to the work of reconciliation and peaceful solutions to our disagreements and conflicts. As we declare in our Social Principles, “As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict. . . We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world. . . “ Let that be our commitment even in the shadow of the violence of Paris and in other parts of our world.
And let us also remember that there are United Methodist Churches, laity and pastors in France who are affected by these terrorist attacks. Keep these sisters and brothers in Christ in prayer. Pray for the people of France who are suffering and grieving even as you read this. And let us not cease to include in our prayers that God would soften the hearts of those who would commit acts of violence against others.
May God grant us wisdom and courage so that we would live as God calls us: as agents of peace, reconciliation, hope, faith and love in our own neighborhoods and communities, or wherever Christ leads us.
Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church