Sunday, July 10, 2016

Prayers of Our People

Photo Credit: Natalie Bender; FPC Manhattan, KS
Recently our denomination finished the final steps needed to accept the Confession of Belhar as part of our cumulative statement of faith in our Book of Confessions.  This part of our constitution shares the history of the church and the response of faithful people expressing their faith amidst wars, political transitions and persecution. The Confession of Belhar was written by the Dutch Reformed Churches in South Africa in response to the period of Apartheid in their country, declaring that Christianity was opposed to "a government that imposed strict separation of the races and domination by members of the white race." This confession expresses that community’s understanding of God’s calling for the church as an instrument to carry the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ to the world. Our denomination has accepted it as a way of expressing our understood responsibility and desire to be people of reconciliation especially when it comes to issues of race and oppression of people groups in our own country and even throughout the world.  Therefore, in light of the events of the last several days, I will use their confession as a foundation for our Prayer of the People on Sunday. Here’s a link for those who want to read more about the Confession of Belhar.

Please pray with me this prayer for reconciliation using the witness of the people gathered at Belhar.

Calling to "the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit." This, You have done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. And we call you to come and gather us, protect us and care for your creation again. 

We believe that you have entrusted us "with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ"; that we, as the church, "are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called “blessed" because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.  That Your lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that Your lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world;  that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity; that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine." 

Therefore, empower us today to gather together with people of other races and colors and cultures and seek to mend the wounds left by the violence we have seen and heard over the last several weeks. We continue to lift up the people of Orlando, Baghdad, Istanbul, Baton Rogue, Minnesota, Dallas, and the dear people of our own community. We pray for the police officers who continually seek to create relationships of trust with the same people they are charged to protect. We pray for those who feel the effects of our troubled American history as a country which pushed aside the native peoples we discovered and then abused the native people we purchased and brought here as slaves. 

Strengthen and embolden us to share the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ. Soften our hearts to respond with compassion, harden our feet to walk the treacherous road before us, and open our hands to receive the friendship and companionship of our fellow Americans, our fellow Christians, and our fellow Earthlings. Lead us by your son, Jesus Christ, we pray, as he taught us, Our Father...

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