A Service of Lament and Reflection

Cheney Congregational Church

June 7th, 2020 – A Service of Lament and Reflection

This Sunday we pause from our ordinary worship order to reflect upon all that is going on in our nation right now, following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. This is a service meant to stir lament and reflection in all of us. We mourn the racism we see on the news and around us, but we acknowledge that we are not exempt from such racism; we too contribute to the problem. So upheld by the grace of God, I invite us all to slowly and prayerfully meditate upon the prayers, the laments and the scripture readings in this service. Let them guide you to mourn, to reflect and to take action.

CONFESSING RACISM: A LAMENT FOR THE CHURH

As church, we confess the sin of racism and condemn racist rhetoric and the ideology of white supremacy. God, have mercy.

God, have mercy.

As church, we confess, repent, and repudiate the times when this church has been silent in the face of racial injustice. God, have mercy.

God, have mercy.

Racism is deeply ingrained within the white American church. It is deeply embedded within the individual congregations whose members continue to foster stereotypes and support polices that actively hurt people of color. God, have mercy.

God, have mercy.

As church, we declare that the enslavement of black bodies and the removal of indigenous peoples established racism in the United States, a truth this nation and this church have yet to fully embrace. God, have mercy.

God, have mercy.

Rooted in slavery, racism is manifested through the history of Jim Crow policies, racial segregation, the terror of lynching, extrajudicial killings by law enforcement, and the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. God, have mercy.

God, have mercy.

Confessions are empty promises without meaningful actions—actions that are grounded in prayer, education, and soul-searching repentance. The sin of racism separates us from one another. Though we trust that we are reconciled to God through Christ’s death and resurrection, we seek such life-giving reconciliation with one another. As we repent, let us not turn back to ideologies that promote white supremacy. We trust that God can make all things new.

Amen.

Lamenting the Grip of Melancholy

With Job of old we cry out:

Everywhere the innocent suffer.

Our desires and efforts achieve us little.

O God, are you good, yet do nothing to help us?

Our answers have holes, and we fall through.

Hear us, O God:

Hear us, O God.

Revive us with hope:

Revive us with hope.

Give us your life:

Give us your life.

A time of silence is kept.

Hear these words, and receive their power:

The majesty of God the Father undergirds all that is.

The mercy of God the Son accepts our despair.

The comfort of God the Spirit embraces us in communities of care.

Thanks be to God:

Thanks be to God.

A PRAYER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

Save us, O God, from ourselves, 

from racism often cloaked in pious words, 

from the machinations of white supremacy hidden in calls for civility,

from micro aggressions thinly veiled in arrogance, 

from apologies when they don’t give way to action,

from forgiveness without facing the truth, 

from reconciliation without reparation.

Deliver us, O God, from expecting siblings of color to continue to bear this emotional work, which is not theirs to do.

Grateful for the long arc that bends toward justice, we pray:

Grant us wisdom, 

give us courage for the facing of these days,

by the power of the Spirit, all for the sake of the kin-dom that we share in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

REFLECTION HYMN – “THERE IS A BALM IN GILEAD”

(Read/sing this spiritual on your own, or if you have internet access you can sing along here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fcMxI_6xsk). If you don’t know the tune, then read it prayerfully, meditating upon the words.

Refrain:

There is a balm in Gilead

to make the wounded whole.

There is a balm in Gilead

to heal the sin-sick soul.

1. Sometimes I feel discouraged,

and think my work’s in vain,

but then the Holy Spirit

revives my soul again. (Refrain)

2. Don’t ever feel discouraged,

for Jesus is your friend,

who, if you ask for knowledge,

will never fail to lend. (Refrain)

3. If you cannot preach like Peter,

if you cannot pray like Paul,

you can tell the love of Jesus,

who died to save us all. (Refrain)

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

PSALM 140

Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
    preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart
    and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,
    and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    preserve me from violent men,
    who have planned to trip up my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
    and with cords they have spread a net;
    beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah

I say to the Lord, You are my God;
    give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!
O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation,
    you have covered my head in the day of battle.
Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
    do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah

As for the head of those who surround me,
    let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them!
    Let them be cast into fire,
    into miry pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land;
    let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
    and will execute justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
    the upright shall dwell in your presence.

ISAIAH 58:1-9

“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,[a]
    and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[b] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

EPHESIANS 5:1-2, 8-14

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray for the church, the world,
and all of God’s creation.

God of creation, you called everything into being. Sustain this world with your renewing care. Instill in us a deeper wonder for the created world you’ve called good, and a greater humility for our place within it. Kindle in us a creative and resilient spirit as we care for the earth and its creatures. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of counsel, all authority belongs to you. Encourage leaders to seek wisdom and respond with courage and compassion to those most in need. We pray for community leaders in this time of unrest. Further the work of advocates who pursue justice in often ignored communities. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of care, you created us in your image; we are your beloved children. May we recognize your likeness in one another. We pray for all mourning the death of your beloved child, George Floyd. Hold in your loving embrace all experiencing trauma, fear, uncertainty, and loss. Protect vulnerable children and adults from violence or neglect; provide what is needed for those lacking access to food, shelter, and other services. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of healing, you accompany us in sickness and suffering. Bring relief to all afflicted with the coronovirus and all those isolated now more than ever, especially those in prison or care facilities. Strengthen caregivers, health workers, and all whose work ensures the safety and well-being of others. Console, heal, and nourish all in need this day. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of connection, you call us to make your presence known. Accompany people of faith as they nurture relationships in new ways. Where the sin of racism fractures our relationships, bring repentance and reconciliation. Free us for the difficult work ahead in our congregations and communities. Open our hearts for attentive listening so that our places of connection are filled with your Spirit. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of mercy, we lift up the following concerns from our own church community. We ask for healing and for your comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

God of compassion, you comfort us in our grief with the promise of the resurrection. We give you thanks for the saints of all time and in our lives. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

BENEDICTION

Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage;

hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak;

help the afflicted; honor all people;

love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.