We lost two students on Sunday morning in a terrible plane crash. David Otai and Emma Biagioni were two of our brightest and most beloved. I knew David well and Emma in passing. I'm not ready to say much about the pain we are experiencing here, but since this is Civil Rights Awareness week on campus and since David, a beautiful Kenyan young man, taught me how to sing a song in Swahilli, a song that has helped shape my heart for growing diversity here at Hope College, I want to offer the prayer I wrote for the ending of our march of remembrance across campus today as a remembrance of him too.
This isn't the greatest prayer about these issues of reconciliation and healing. It is my first of its type, but it's been a significant experience for me to write it. I only wish I could have looked back in the group of gathered students, staff and faculty to see David's face. I borrowed loosely from a few prayers found in The Worship Sourcebook put out by the Calvin Institute of Worship, a great resource.
Friends, Brothers and Sisters,
As we gather here at the end of our march, it is no insignificant thing that we end with prayer. As we remember the courage of Yuri Kochiyama, Viola Liuzzo and Irena Sendler, as we remember the suffering of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. many of us want to do something, to take action and not to stand idly by while injustices continue all around us in this world, in our country, our own state and our city.
I am reminded of the life and work of the late Henri Nouwen, a brilliant scholar who left his teaching at both Yale and Harvard to serve physically and mentally handicapped adults in the Le Arch community in Toronto, Canada. In his book The Wounded Healer, Nouwen writes about his own experiences of solidarity with the poor in Central and South America. For Nouwen Jesus is our model of a full, complete human being, because Jesus is the consummate activist and contemplative. Jesus is the ultimate ‘wounded healer’ because it is only in Jesus that we see suffering fully answered by justice.
It is in contemplation and prayer that we reflect on our Gospel hope and gain vision for Gospel action.
In this spirit, as we remember these people of action, those who have suffered, it is appropriate that our first response before God is silence.
Would you please join me in a moment of silence.
Father of mercy,
open our eyes, that we may see the pain of others.
Open our ears, that we may hear their cries.
Open our hearts, do not let them be without help.
Let us not be afraid to defend the oppressed
because of the indifference of the strong,
Let us not be afraid of solidarity with the marginalized
because of the indifference of our society
and even the indifference of our neighbors.
Show us where love and hope are needed,
and use us to be agents of peace and givers of love.
Open our eyes and ears, so that today we may
help establish your kingdom upon the earth.
We hear the Spirit’s call to love one another,
to oppose discrimination of race, sexual orientation or gender
We hear the Spirit’s call to accept the other,
to love those we don’t know or understand,
to call the stranger our brother, the outsider our sister
and to share with them our homes,
our marriages, families and friendship,
to share our jobs, our churches and our government
and so to fulfill the love of Christ.
We give our thanks for the men and women
of the past and the present
who in the face of loneliness,
monotony, misunderstanding, and danger
have persisted in their work of shalom,
to establish peace on this earth.
We pray to you, O Lord, our God and Father,
because we are encouraged by the example of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our brother. By the power of your Spirit
teach us to love as Jesus loved, to go where Jesus would go,
to touch those who Jesus would touch, to listen as Jesus would listen,
to bless as Jesus would bless, to forgive as Jesus would forgive.
And so we fix our attention on him, in who is life and whose life
is the light of all of humanity, unto him be all blessing
and glory and honor and power forever and ever. AMEN