Blessing and Benediction

At the end of Jacob’s life, the old patriarch blesses the two sons of his own long lost son, Joseph, saying, “The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys.” (Gen. 48:15-16)

From Abraham to Mother Mary, the Bible is full of parents blessing and pondering over the wonder and joy of their child, imagining their futures and speaking God’s abundant promises for them. On becoming a parent, I became conspicuously drawn to those images of blessing. I love the way that words of hope shared aloud can give shape to our prayers and dreams. 

But the words are slow to come in the horror of these last days. The slaughter of innocents in yet another act of senseless violence, this time in Texas, has shaken us. Like the Psalmist, we lament, “How Long, O Lord?” I think of Jacob blessing his grandsons, placing his tired hands on their moppy-haired youthful heads. And I am overwhelmed at the truth that for many families this week, they will place their hands on their children’s heads, not in blessing, but in benediction. 

So may this prayer I offer be a word of lamentation and benediction, confession and hope. 

A Prayer for Recycled Horror
You were there, O God,
   as you always are.
The first one on the scene. 
As in Newtown,
   now in Uvalde,
   You are always there. 
Your compassion spills out over lifeless little bodies,
   As you tenderly brush their hair to the side,
   to see their innocent faces and call their names aloud. 
You were barricaded in that room with them. 
You took them Home 
   as traumatized first responders swallowed in the carnage,
   and parents waited nearby, huddled in shock, hoping against hope. 
Your anger disquiets us even now;
   Watching politicians and pundits twist themselves into knots 
   so as not to offend their special interests and favored lobbyists.
They wring their hands, as you shake your head. 
All the while, another massacre will give cause for another prayer. 
Forgive us, Lord,
   if you can manage it. 
Forgive our stubborn predispositions,
   our foolish suppositions of what “freedom” means. 
Wrestle from us our idolatries,
   and our unconscionable reluctance 
   to believe anything meaningful can be done.
Receive these little lambs into your loving embrace.
And give us courage to feel our way in this present darkness,
   That in your light, we might see a way out of it. 
We pray in the name of the One who died in crucified violence 
to save us from ourselves,