Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pastoral Prayer to Live Differently

based on Matthew 5:38-48

O God, sometimes we hear what Jesus commands us to do and wonder if he really knows what he’s talking about. When he says, “do not resist an evildoer,” or “turn the other cheek,” or “love your enemies,” we think that he can’t possibly know the way things really work. What could he possibly mean by statements like this? Does he know what it’s like to live in a world that is often callous and cruel and selfish?

And he does know. The same one who made these statements is the one who listened to the stories and experiences of prostitutes who were abused, day workers short-changed at the end of their shift, Samaritans shunned for their foreign beliefs, the sick, disabled, and possessed in need of healthcare, and fellow believers who refused to practice the state religion. He heard these stories while so full of your love and so pained by the suffering we visit on each other.

At the same time, he offered an alternative view of how to live by mercy and forgiveness rather than play into the thinking that the only right response is further violence, further fear, further separation. We hear his call to consider such stories with the same divine love with which you hear our own deepest prayers and our most desperate longings.

Faithful God, we know something of how harsh things can be. And we admit that at times, we are afraid. Show us the way to be faithful among imperfect people and circumstances, to help bring more grace into others’ lives. Amen.