After the unspeakable terror and violence in Paris, a reporter interviewed a French boy and his father. The child was afraid of “bad guys” with guns and wondered if they would leave Paris to be safe. His father assured him that they would stay in Paris, their home. He then pointed his son to the flowers and the candles massed in memorial, saying, “They have guns, but we have flowers and candles.” The child wondered out loud, “So will the flowers and candles protect us?”
Flowers and candles do keep us safe as they bind us to God. Jesus directs our attention to lilies in the appointed text for Thanksgiving, Matthew 6:24-34. God cares for the lilies who are a sign of God’s care for us. Flowers and candles are evangels for beautiful life in Jesus Christ. Flowers bloom and candles shine, defying with power all that is evil, violent and terrifying.
Therefore, we will be confident in the God who beautifully loves the entire human family, who desires peace and justice, who calls us to be witnesses for what is right and true and good. We yearn for safety for all people as we seek our own safety. We speak the truth in love: as people of faith we follow Jesus, who was himself a refugee in Egypt. We will acknowledge that Syrian refugees are themselves victims of terror in their homeland. We will remember experiences of blessing as we welcomed refugees in other times into our communities, churches and homes. We will not distance as “other” innocent people in this or any circumstance of life. Everyday, in every place, we will be Christ’s witnesses who welcome and bless, calming fear and fanning the flame of love.
We have seen a wave of anxiety wash over politicians and citizens alike, turning us from the source of our security, strength and hope. The life of Christ beckons us to fear not, to welcome the stranger and to be a blessing. Therefore, let us pray:
God of light and love, break into our world in these days. Awaken, we pray, all people of faith and good will to the highest calling of discipleship and service. Make clear in us the way of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived in dangerous times with clear purpose. Help us to have courage in a fearful world. Lead us by the Holy Spirit to the witness of hospitality, generosity and love.
We pray for the people of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, Belgium, France and Mali who feel directly the impact of senseless violence and resultant terror. We pray that hearts turned to violence might be shown the better way of love and peace. We pray for our state and our nation that we might engage in world affairs at this time with vision, courage and compassion. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward