A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017, asks the question — what does it take for 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 share a prayer or reflection or poem from one of these.
This week I share from Thea Racelis chapter, “Mercy Instead of Sacrifice — the Expendability of the Death Penalty.” Thea says this of herself in the book: Thea L. Racelis is a Queer Latina minister and theologian. Thea is passionate about God’s welcome for all of God’s people and Jesus’ radical message of social justice and inclusion. She and her spouse, Rikka, live in New England with their small herd of cats … but since this book was published I can add that they have an amazing daughter and they are soon heading west!!
This is her offering of a community prayer:
Prayer of Confession
Holy and Merciful One,
free us from fear, we pray.
Free us from turning to human-made, flawed justice that punishes, isolates, and divides.
Free us from thoughts of revenge and retribution. Restore us to compassion, O God.
Assurance of Pardon
Receive today God’s pardon, the a rmation and love of community, even as we pray for all those who are awaiting pardons of their own. Amen
Prayers of the People
We lift up in prayer the names of those who are incarcerated unjustly, those who have been sentenced to death by the state, those who love them and await mercy:
[Add names from your context here]
(If you are in the United States, you can find updated lists of people on death row on the Death Penalty Information Center’s website: http:// http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/federal-death-row-prisoners.)
Worship Experience—Suggested Reading John 8:7b
We remember the story of the crowd, ready to stone a woman for the sin of adultery, when Jesus offers this radical challenge to look at our own lives before casting the stones that would break this woman’s body, break her spirit, and end her life. None of those gathered was able to cast a stone. After they walked away, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:10b–11.
Invite all gathered to pick up a stone to take with them and incorporate it into devotional practice.
Whenever we feel like we are ready to cast judgment or assign blame, we can take up our stone as a reminder.
Whenever we feel like we are superior, without failings, beyond reproach, we can take up our stone in prayer and confession for the ways we inevitably fall short.
Whenever we feel like judgment is falling upon us, we can take up our stone and remember that Jesus has not condemned us, that in Christ we have freedom.