Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prayers for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October, 2010

Since 1981, October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence is a problem that cuts across all religious, cultural, racial, social, and economic class lines. The color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is purple – many people wear purple ribbons to remember the victims of private violence, where it takes place behind closed doors.

Here is the text of a proclamation by President Obama about Domestic Violence Awareness Month and why it is so important to consider this issue carefully in every family and every community.

NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH, 2009
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Domestic violence touches the lives of Americans of all ages, leaving a devastating impact on women, men, and children of every background and circumstance. A family's home becomes a place of fear, hopelessness, and desperation when a woman is battered by her partner, a child witnesses the abuse of a loved one, or a senior is victimized by family members. Since the 1994 passage of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, championed by then Senator Joe Biden, our Nation has strengthened its response to this crime and increased services for victims. Still, far too many women and families in this country and around the world are affected by domestic violence. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we recommit ourselves to ending violence within our homes, our communities, and our country.

Read the full proclamation by President Obama.


These prayers were compiled through the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Metro New York Synod Domestic Violence Awareness Task Force, for daily devotions during the month of October. We hope you will pray these prayers with us, each day, throughout the month. May God bless you with abundant grace and peace as you pray.

October 1: Gracious God, you created us in your image and breathed life into us. A life you want us to live abundantly. We ask you to free those living with abuse physically, mentally or spiritually, from their oppression, so that they may walk in peace and enjoy a life full of your blessings. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 2: Teaching God, we pray that you open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to be more aware, outreaching, and supportive to people in abusive situations, so that they won’t feel alone and know that someone cares. Let us love them as you have loved us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 3: Compassionate God, protect the innocent children who suffer or witness violence and abuse at the hands of the ones they love. Bring them to a safe place where they can begin to heal. Restore their minds to trust and their hearts to love and their spirits to be free. Surround them with your angels. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 4: Loving God, help us to be kind to everyone so that people who are poor, abused, hungry, neglected and afraid, or in any need will have justice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 5: Loving Savior, touch the hearts of those who abuse others. Heal their thinking, so that they may turn to you and seek your ways. Help them to know that every human being is a treasure to you. Help them to know that you are a forgiving God and can lead them on a path to new life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 6: Merciful God, we give you thanks for your gift of strength and life and especially for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have health and salvation. Help us by your Holy Spirit to witness your power in our lives and to know your eternal love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 7: Almighty God, we pray for all victims of abuse. We ask you to surround them with your care and protect them by your loving might and permit them to enjoy health and healing, wholeness and strength, calmness and peace and love. Most of all that they feel your presence and be confident in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 8: Good and Merciful God, comfort me in moments of distress. Help me to not give in to anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, and not forgiving. Rather call to my mind your promises of love, joy, and hope. Fill me with your peace. Heal any disease in my body, mind, and soul, including my memories or my emotions which overwhelm me at times and cause me to default to old patterns of thinking that are not of you. Allow your healing waters to refresh and renew me. Show me your ways, oh Lord, so that I may walk in the light of thy eternal love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 9: Gracious God, look upon the victims of domestic violence with compassion and guide their journey through the legalities of obtaining an Order of Protection so that they might have the chance to begin a new life free from fear and pain. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October l0: Merciful Father, we ask that you watch over your elderly children who are left weak and frail from their many years on this earth. Remove them from the harsh and hurtful treatment they are being subjected to and provide them gentle and loving care for their remaining time on this earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 11: Righteous Lord, be with all the judges and lawmakers so that all who enter their courts will be dealt with in a fair and just manner. Touch their hearts to pray for all their petitioners. Let these systems, set up to enforce justice, work for the good of your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen

October l2: Giving Lord, we thank you for all caregivers, foster parents, clergy, deacons, and lay people who open their hearts and their homes to help people find or rediscover their worth. Thank you for all congregations and communities that welcome and provide fellowship, understanding and assistance to people who are in need of knowing and experiencing your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 13: O Lord, help us to be strong stewards of all you have entrusted to us. Give us the courage and your strength to stand against abuse of any kind inflicted upon your precious people and also to the animals you have placed on this earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 14: Loving God, be with all men and women who are in doubt about their intimate relationships. Give them clarity of mind and peaceful hearts so that they can make good decisions guided by your love. Let those who must, discern any abuse that may exist so that they can learn to care for themselves with your help. Let those who must, acknowledge that they are harming the other, so they can learn to abhor their own behavior and come to true repentance and amendment of life. Keep us all safe in our relationships. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 15: Most Holy Spirit, comfort and protect all who work to help victims of domestic violence, rape and assault. Give them the strength and courage to listen day by day to the hurts of others. Help them as they seek to comfort and guide the lost souls who come to them for aid. Bring them peace in their own lives, that they may better serve those to and for whom they are responsible. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October l6: Gentle God, we give you thanks and praise. Touch us with your grace. Strengthen us to accept the conversion of heart which requires us to live in equality and mutuality, with gentleness and compassion, with reverence and respect, toward ourselves and toward one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 17: God of Peace, there are many places and many people who do not experience your peace. Right now there are many, many women and children who live under the weight of fear and violence in their own homes. We pray for your protection and for wisdom for friends and officials to help bring that right protection to them. We pray for the many men who themselves feel powerless and confused about their relationships. We ask that you would help them find healthy ways to work out their frustrations and to find hope without resorting to destructive impulses. We ask for your perfect peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 18: Merciful Lord, we pray for those who suffer in silence, who are afraid to utter a word, afraid of being misunderstood or misjudged. We pray that as a church you help us to hear the voices of those who cry in silence. Help us to be compassionate and not to judge. Help us to be a responsive community of faith in denouncing verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse when we see it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 19: Dear Jesus, help me to be humble, willing to apologize, make amends, and change any hurtful behavior. Please help me, too, to find the courage and compassion to confront hurtful behavior as you would. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 20: Lord God, your own Son was delivered into the hands of the wicked, yet he prayed for his persecutors and overcame hatred with the blood of the cross. Grant those who stand against violence peace of mind and a renewed faith in your protection and care. Protect us all from the violence of others, keep us safe from the weapons of hate, and restore to us tranquility and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 21: God of Restoration, we ask you to guard and guide our youth as they struggle to find their way and your way in life amid all the pressures and messages sent out by media and peers. These messages look down on women, musical messages that inspire the love of money and no sexual boundaries. Help parents to be more involved in what their children are involved in, to inspire them to do good, to respect and to honor others. Restore family structure to be a strong unit, a safety net, and a light to the path that leads to you and your ways. In. Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 22: O God, in whose enduring love we trust, bind up the wounds of those betrayed by abuse at the hands of others. Heal them and make them whole, that they may once more receive and give love with confidence in their dignity as your sons and daughters. In. Jesus name. Amen.

October 23: God of Truth, we ask you to bless and protect the offspring of relationships where domestic violence murder has taken place. Help them to recognize you, O God, as their strong and gentle parent. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 24: All Knowing God, you know what is in our hearts and you know our intentions. Help us examine ourselves before we try to help others. Heal us so that all we do will magnify you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 25: God of Peace, restrain the hands and convert the hearts of those who seek to do violence. Bring to repentance the perpetrators of domestic violence, and minister with persistent grace to all those harmed by abuse, that they may be signs of your healing power and hope for the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 26: Suffering God, stand always with those hurt by violence and abuse. Let none suffer in silence. Give voice to all who cry out, give courage to all who speak out, and give power to all who intervene, replacing abuse with loving justice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 27: Divine Provider, we ask for your protection and inspiration for those who suffer from economic abuse, and the loss of hope, self esteem, vision and enthusiasm that result from the suffocations of poverty and need, in our households and in our society. We pray for those who use financial resources to control or dominate, and we seek your guidance in establishing economic justice in wages and benefits that are sustainable and foster the well-being of everybody. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 28: Divine Protector, spread your Holy Wings over those who are affected by domestic violence, both victims and perpetrators, in the wake of environmental disaster, economic collapse, terrorism and war. Violence behind closed doors ever increases after such events, and we ask you to help guide those who experience these “ripple effects” to healing resources and safe havens. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 29: God of Mystery and Majesty, we pray for those who suffer, and those who inflict suffering and injustice, based on abusive interpretations of Scripture, religious traditions, and language about what is sacred and sanctified. Give us a sense of wonder and awe at the infinite and intimate faces you show us in our lives, and gratitude and reverence for all of them, in all their diversity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 30: Faith and Hope of our Mothers, living still, we thank you for the blessings of our ancestors, the women and men of faith and compassion who have gone before us, and sacrificed much for the love of God and for their children, even to giving their lives. We pray, on this eve of All Hallows, for those throughout history, and in many countries around the world today, who are accused, tortured and killed as scapegoats and “witches.” Bring the Light of your Mercy and Love into these places of shadow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

October 31: Renewing and Reviving God, we thank you for the continuing reformation and formation of your holy church, in all its variety, and for the communion of the saints. Grant us a spirit of refreshment and reformation in our lives at home, in our work and service, in our devotion, and in the wide world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Download a Word document formatted for printing here (available until 10/23/10). Edit the last page to reflect Domestic Violence resources in your community.
 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life among the wicked

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 3

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-9

Family flees election-related violence in Kenya.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

Habakkuk 1:2, NRSV)

Do not fret because of the wicked... (Psalm 37:1, NRSV)

The prophet knows that evil is a problem. The psalmist knows that the wicked “will soon fade like the grass” (Psalm 37:2, NRSV).

Which is it, Lord?

The prophet knows that “do not fret” is not an adequate response to those who have suffered the trauma of injury and injustice. Even if the wicked will fade, they are here now, and they are all too strong. “Destruction and violence are before me;... The wicked surround the righteous” (Habakkuk 1:3,4, NRSV). The prophet cannot rest. What he sees afflicts him, and his unanswered cries for help cut as painfully – maybe more so – than the suffering he witnesses.

A number of people have noted that some prophetic literature seems to describe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It should hardly be surprising. Witnessing or experiencing violence is shocking. We are created for good, and violent perversions of this divine purpose shock and terrify us.

The effects of trauma are not confined to an unlucky few. All those who witness violence and injustice are hurt. Victims, bystanders, and perpetrators alike are damaged. It skews us, it knocks us off a more idyllic or healthy path, sometimes off the path of righteousness. And though it may be self-evident, it must still be said that violence and injustice can be fatal.

The prophet must speak of the real anguish, which is a true experience, and a crisis for all the faithful.

But the Word of God is not one dimensional. Because God suffers with creation, God also speaks from within anguish. And God speaks not only about anguish, but to the anguished.

Sometimes it may be easier to hear from a voice outside our own tradition.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”

Mahatma Ghandi was himself brutalized by the wicked. But he knew what the prophet and psalmist knew. God’s will will be done. Not soon enough by our lights, but inevitably. In God’s kingdom, the wicked cannot write the last chapter. As Habbakuk says, “There is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (2:3, NRSV, see also Psalm 37:6-7).

“Wait for it”? You say wait for justice, wait for healing, wait while we are in the midst of suffering!?

Sometimes we may think that “wait for it” means “do nothing.” But that is not the counsel of prophet or psalmist.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.... Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:5,8, NRSV). We might not be able to change the evildoers, or the fact that the wicked surround us. But we do not have to let them define us. “Fretting” – being preoccupied with evil – prevents us from claiming that which is good, and provokes us to return evil for evil. It is better – perhaps not easier, but better – to keep our eyes upon the Lord.

This is a pastoral response to trauma, urging us to seek not the obsession of retribution or regret, but to seek the power of hope by practicing the righteousness and mercy that is God's answer to the failings of this world.

In truth, one way out of violence and injustice is simply to try and incarnate the kind of world we hope God is bringing about. “The righteous live by their faith,” says the prophet (Habbakuk 2:4, NRSV). Living by faith... the most active kind of waiting imaginable.


This text and additional resources can be found as an American Bible Society E-Bulletin (PDF).
 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Holy ground - nine years after

One of the central features of current controversy over the Park 51 Islamic community center is the public debate over what constitutes “holy ground.” This is held to be an essential part of understanding and remembering what happened on 9/11/01.

Unsurprisingly, the public debate is most intense at the World Trade Center. It was the first and focal point of the 9/11 attacks, and the first and focal point of public attention. It had the “most seen” images of that day, it is the real estate most familiar and most valuable, and of course, it is the location of the greatest number of victims.

The debate is not a new one. New Yorkers and victims’ families have been contending over this since 9/11/01, even that day as the site was dubbed “Ground Zero,” a metaphor for the epicenter of total destruction and toxicity of a nuclear blast, recalling the U.S. attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 56 years earlier, and perhaps alluding to the concentric waves of devastation from that center (buildings destroyed and damaged, lives mangled and griefs multiplied, and subsequent effects such as attack-caused illnesses, retaliatory actions, even healing).

Victims’ families, responders, and other interested parties picketed and contended – never fully successfully – for what ground would be officially hallowed. They presented maps and graphs showing where each piece of recovered human remains was found. This approach reflects the ancient understanding that “blood hallows” – or in other terms might provide a telling indicator for where victims’ lives should be memorialized.

Perhaps the best known fight was to preserve the footprints of the original WTC towers as “holy ground” for memorial space only. Because the WTC plan includes memorial pools, most people think this battle was won. In fact, the memorial pools and surrounding area are smaller than the tower footprints, and not the same ground as the original tower space. “Holy ground” at the World Trade Center site has never been a self-evident, fixed, or agreed-upon concept.

In these political, commercial, and emotional negotiations, the entire WTC site has never been regarded by most people to be off-limits to all activity other than memorialization. In recovery, construction, and post-development, the WTC has been and will be a place for all kinds of human activity – as it was before 9/11/01. It is a place where people work and eat. It has toilets and garbage baskets. I have no doubt that the site has and will see love and sex, arguments and peacemaking, drinking and cursing and joking, music, dancing, and prayer in many different traditions.

Holy ground...

In the fervor to define the limits of where the “holiness line” is to be drawn, at least as it applies to Muslims, one of the more interesting proposals has come from Carl Paladino, one of the candidates for the NY Republican gubernatorial nomination. He proposed that mosques should be excluded from the area covered by the dust cloud. (”I want a simple restriction over the Ground Zero site which is the footprint and includes the dust cloud that includes the remains of all those people who died”.) While he seemed to me to be grasping at straws to find a rational basis for drawing his line, this idea again hearkens back to the notion that “blood hallows,” or that the place where human remains are laid to rest is particularly sacred.

While not accepting Mr. Paladino's premise that the Islamic faith or the prayer of Muslims profanes the memory of 9/11, his more expansive notion of “holy ground” is a way to touch some of the realities of 9/11. Like the firefighters who sifted through the dirt looking for their lost ones, like the family members wishing to retrieve debris from the Fresh Kills landfill because some specks of dust were missed, we have this sense that the lives lost that day were precious. Seeking to hallow every fragment speaks to the true depth of loss.

But we cannot gather up the dust to remake - even in memory - those who were killed. Some of their atoms are burned and scattered to the winds. Some we breathed in over those next few days and months, to become part of us. Some have been absorbed into the surrounding landscape. And some have traveled the world on jetstream and ocean currents.

The dead are dead. Their resurrection is in hands other than ours. And we can change neither of these realities.

So how can we claim holy ground out of what has been ground to bits?

We must be clear that the reasons the murderers gave for their crimes are not the outrage of 9/11. Neither their cited religious faith nor their claims of secular-Western-American evils were the abomination of that day.

Murder is the abomination of 9/11. The murder of people in downtown New York, in suburban Virginia, and in rural Pennsylvania is an abomination. The spilling of innocent blood is what evoked our outrage nine years ago when it happened close to home. But the spilling of innocent blood did not start or end on 9/11/01. We should regard all the world’s killing fields - the blood-soaked asphalt of poor neighborhoods, Iraq and Afghanistan, Cambodia and Congo, Israel and Palestine, Armenia and Eastern Europe - as kin to 9/11.

It dishonors the memory and profanes the ground of those who lived and died at the World Trade Center to make it a site of hatred rather than of healing.

Let us hallow the World Trade Center - once a killing ground - by making it a ground zero for peace. As the site is rebuilt, let it be a foundation stone for bridges between people, especially between the fearful and hopeful of every clan. Let it be, as it was on 9/11/01 and in the days which followed, even to the present day, a site where mercy and compassion reign in sad and holy triumph even amidst the ashes of destruction.

Gracious and loving God, whose name is peace and whose being is holy: sanctify our grief; heal our wounds; and redeem our loss. Lead us through our struggle, that we may not give in to evil, but may be renewed by your goodness, walking in your mercy and blessing your world, in the name of all those you loved, and whose lives are holy to you. We remember all victims of violence, and pray that we may be led out of the shadow of death through the light of your redeeming love. Amen.

Artwork:

Stephane Jaspert, "Two candles" (1982) after Gerhard Richter, used by permission.

Roses thrown by mourners float in a reflecting pool at the World Trade Center site in New York during a ceremony to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks Friday, Sept. 11, 2009. AP / Chang W. Lee