There’s an old nursery rhyme – “Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” For the next five months I will share sections from the new book — A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017.
This book asks the question — what does it take for all the children in the world, all the children in the world, to be not only fed and sheltered and safe but also to be able to laugh. More than one hundred themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. Of course I would love to have my readers buy this book, but even more I want you to hear some of these voices, each so very different. So every week I’m going to share a prayer or reflection or poem from one of these. This week I am sharing all of a chapter by Shelly Davis. She gives this as her “bio:”
Shelly Davis is a pastor, preacher and poet living and serving in Milton, MA. She prays and works for the day when none of God’s children will believe they need a gun.
Gun Violence and Gun Control in the United States
The United States is a nation marked by a strong prevalence of gun ownership among its citizenry, a culture of the “right” for its citizens to bear arms that is steeped in certain interpretations of its very Constitution, and an enduring narrative of seemingly any frontier—geographic or figurative—being conquerable with the aid of firearms.
There are those who own guns they use to hunt for food to feed their families or pursue the shooting sports, and most gun control advocates respect these uses. Yet even in the midst and wake of numerous mass shootings and the reality that on average seven children and teens under the age of twenty each day are killed by gun violence in the United States, an intractable struggle persists between gun-rights and gun-control advocates.
My heart aches, O God, for another child, another image of you, caught in the crossfire. Oh—my—God, the crossfire. Why has that word never struck me like this before? The cross—fire. Your cross: a symbol of your self-giving love. Your fire: a symbol of your Holy Spirit. How can I bring your cross and your fire to bear on this duel, this showdown, this shootout?
I need the breadth and depth of your love, so starkly and hauntingly depicted on a crude Roman cross, to enter more deeply into the reasons one might choose to have a gun. What causes anyone to be so terrified, so enraged, so entitled? What of the sport of it? Must one form of hunting inevitably lead to all other forms of hunting? What of the previously assaulted, the previously hunted? What of those targeted by the state, or empire—just like you, Jesus?
I need your fire, the fire of your Holy Spirit, to ignite my passion for justice, for life, for children, for hope. Maybe I can “fight fire with fire” after all: your fire, the fire of justice, the fire of life, the fire of children, the fire of hope.
Between your cross and your fire is resurrection; resurrection and stories of seeing you along the way, especially in the breaking of bread. Death is not final. Death is not final. Death is not final. Not even the death dealing of a gun-drenched America. That is the story of my faith. Is not this faith, my faith in you, a faith to stand in the crossfire?
If I choose to stand in the crossfire, what will I feel, what will I say, what will I do?
I will feel afraid and vulnerable and open.
I will say that you came to give us life, not to take life away.
I will do something I never thought I could do before.
I will rise.
I will rise to the challenge. I will rise to enter the story. I will rise to a new level of conversation with those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to mine. I will rise to a different experience of your cross. I will rise in the heat and flame of your fire: the fire of justice, the fire of life, the fire of children, the fire of hope.
Walk with me Jesus. Walk with me into the crossfire. Amen
Dodging Bullets: A Sequence of Reconciliation
Call to Reconciliation
In all our dodging and weaving, God waits for us to stand still, catch our breath, and cry out for healing and grace.
Prayer of Confession
Howling, Horrified God of Hope,
Too many children—our children, your children—are becoming far too adept at dodging bullets—in their streets, their alleys, their parks, their schools, their homes.
How ironic that dodgeball is considered too dangerous to be sanctioned play at recess while dodging bullets has become a necessary life skill for children in these United States of America.
From our urban jungles, to our amber waves of grain, to our suburban sanctuaries, our school children learn lockdown routines to prepare them for the possibility of an armed intruder.
In a mad rush to protect ourselves from anyone and everyone—but ourselves—many of our homes now house more guns than human lives.
How is it that we see no contradiction in praying with Isaiah “to turn our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” while arming ourselves at the rate of nine guns for every ten people, including children?
Unhinge our hearts, O God, from this culture of violence and prison of extreme self-reliance, that we may dig deeper than the nearest holster or pocket or pocketbook or pillow or gun cabinet to consider what we are most desperately dodging: fear, self-doubt, trauma, meaninglessness.
You, Holy One, have the power to make all things new—even here, even now, even us.
Open then our hearts to the power and presence of your steadfast love. Teach us your ways of peace and reconciliation, with one another and ourselves. Embolden us to lay down our arms that we may teach your still more excellent way to our children, your children, in hope and in peace. Amen
Assurance of Grace
God’s grace and reconciliation makes all things new: even here, even now, even us. Thanks be to God.
Questions for Reflection/Action
Do you presently own or have you ever owned a gun?
If not, seek out someone who does, arrange a face-to-face meeting, and ask that person to help you understand why she or he chooses to own one. If you have or do, seek out someone who never has, arrange a face-to-face meeting, and ask that person to help you understand why he or she chooses not to own one.
Why do you think the United States has such high gun ownership rates, especially compared to other developed countries?
How does your understanding of Jesus’ teaching and actions as we encounter them in the gospels support or challenge your own position on gun rights and gun control?