“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
This verse was the basis of our sermon this past Sunday. Unfortunately, the concept of mourning also seems like it could be a theme for this week. Just to remind us all, here are just a VERY SMALL list of the some of the things that happened THIS WEEK locally, nationally, and globally:
- Two people found burned alive in Rochester within two days of each other
- 4 separate shootings in Buffalo just on Monday night alone
- Philando Castile shot by police in Minnesota
- Alton Sterling man was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early Tuesday morning
- 5 police officers were killed and more injured in Dallas last night
- Over 200 killed in bombing at the beginning of the week in Iraq and many more in subsequent attacks since
- A bombing in Bangladesh
- China flooding leaves many dead and many more missing
Even closer to home, I’ve seen families torn apart by abuse, children grieving the loss of their parents, teenagers starving themselves or injuring themselves to deal with life’s struggles, and more.
And the list could go on and on and on and on and on. The mourning for lost lives and lost innocence and lost hope is great.
I’m thinking about how we learned Sunday that to “mourn” in this sense captures both mourning the loss of something but also mourning over our sin. Both are true in my heart today. I grieve the beautiful people this world lost this past week. I grieve the way we all humans have such ability to hate. I grieve the way our sinful nature pulls us apart, pulls away from God, pulls us into violence, pulls us into murder. Yes “us” (not “them”), all of us, every single one of us. I grieve our sinful acts and the things that happen to us as a result of sin in general in the world.
I grieve today. I mourn. I hurt for all that has happened. I’m saddened by the reality that next week the names or places might be different but the headlines likely will repeat. I find that all I can say is Lord, have mercy and lean into the One who promises comfort for those who mourn. May we mourn not with worldly sorrow which leads to death, but Godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life.
And that is the key… Yes, we want justice (and God does too!) But when we grieve in our worldly, human way, “justice” can quickly become synonymous with “revenge”. Revenge mixed with grief never seems to end well. When we grieve in our human way, it always leads to more death. We’ve seen it happen this week. Yet, when we grieve the injustices of this world in a godly way, a way that starts first with us on our knees on the ground in repentance for our own misdeeds, a way that takes action but does so out of love not hatred, a way that is focused on the comfort and peace of Christ, that kind of grief and mourning leads to life.
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
This verse may be talking about spiritual death but looking at the events of this week, it seems true that it might apply to physical death as well. Our cities, our nations, our world must grieve and do so in repentance. And it must start with me and you. It may seem crazy, but the truth is that we are just as capable of committing these huge acts of injustice and violence as the next guy. And there is not one but of hyperbole in that. Believing we are above the violence and pain and hurt we’ve seen this week makes us all the more likely to fall in Satan’s trap. And so, on behalf of our entire world, let us come today in prayer, in humility, and seek the face of God, the only One who can lead us into true life, can bring about real justice, and can provide comfort and healing in the midst of our brokenness.
Borrowing (and slightly adapting) from the prayers of Daniel and Nehemiah, we pray:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.
We have not listened but pray your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants in this world. I confess the sins we, including myself, have committed against you.
Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame — the men and women of Buffalo and people of America, and all the world, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All have transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the world that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.
O, Lord, have mercy.