Umpqua Community College – October 1, 2015
The fact that there are prayer and worship resources for moments like these in our hymnal says something sad and alarming about our world. As you process the aftermath of another mass casualty shooting and think about how you as a Christian need to respond, I invite you to spend some quiet time today with the text of this hymn from the Chalice Hymnal –
When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love [Chalice Hymnal #512]
Words: Joy F. Patterson, 1992 – Hope Publishing Company, 1994
When aimless violence takes those we love,
when random death strikes childhood’s promise down,
when wrenching loss becomes our daily bread,
we know, O God, you leave us not alone.
When passing years rob sight and strength and mind
yet fail to still a strongly beating heart,
and grief becomes the fabric of our days,
dear Lord, you do not stand from us apart.
Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim,
yet you, O God, are with us in our pain;
you grieve with us and for us day by day,
and with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.
Because your Son knew agony and loss,
felt desolation, grief and scorn and shame,
we know you will be with us, come what may,
your loving presence near, always the same.
Through long, grief-darkened days help us, O Lord,
to trust your grace for courage to endure,
to rest our souls in your supporting love,
and find our hope within your mercy sure.
As far as prayer goes on a day like today, my “go to” text for reflection is the prayer that was written by Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, the Anglican Bishop of Iran, after his son, Bahram, was killed during the Iranian Revolution in 1980. When he received the news of the death of his son, Bishop Dehqani-Tafti wrote his wife from his exile on Cyprus –
I feel bewildered but very calm. May God forgive those who have murdered our son. For, plainly, ‘they knew not what they did’. What had Bahram ever done to them? May God use the death of our dear son to free people from hatred and enmity in our country, in whatever way He knows. What an educated and cultured man our country has lost. The seed of this sacrifice somehow, sometime, somewhere in the whole plan of God for his world, will blossom and bear fruit. How and when and where we cannot know but we believe that the sacrifice will not be wasted. We must not have hatred in our hearts –only sorrow, pity, mercy and compassion, for those callous murderers. May God awaken their souls so that they realize the depth of their prejudice and hatred and so be saved from their sin.
And on the day of the funeral, Bishop Dehqani-Tafti broadcast this prayer into the service which he could not personally attend –
O God, we remember not only Bahram but his murderers, not because they killed him in the prime of his youth and made our hearts bleed and our tears flow, not because with this savage act they have brought further disgrace on the name of our country among the civilized nations of the world: but because through their crime we now follow more closely thy footsteps in the way of sacrifice. The terrible fire of this calamity burns up all selfishness and possessiveness in us: its flame reveals the depth of depravity, meanness and suspicion, the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human nature. It makes plain to us as never before our need to trust in thy love as shown in the Cross of Jesus and his Resurrection, love that makes us free from all hatred towards our persecutors: love which brings patience, forbearance, courage, loyalty, humility, generosity and greatness of heart, love which more than ever deepens our trust in God’s final victory and thy eternal designs for the Church and for the world: love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death.
O God, Bahram’s blood multiplies the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of our souls: so when his murderers stand before thee on the Day of Judgment remember the fruit of the Spirit by which they have enriched our lives, and forgive.