As if a global pandemic and fearful quarantine were not enough to endure, we find ourselves as Americans facing our continued systemic racism. Sadly we are unable to gather with each other in our sanctuaries today on Pentecost Sunday to confess our sin and pray for courage as congregations. Our church’s Facebook page has become an important avenue of communication in the past ten weeks. I invited people to respond to the horror of George Floyd’s death and the national reaction in the form of prayers last week. From those I wove together our “Prayers of the People” for our on-line worship this morning. Perhaps our church family’s words will give voice to your own. I invite you to add your prayer to these.
God of all power and mercy, we are thankful for your Holy Spirit. We celebrate the gift of the outpouring of Your Spirit on Pentecost when men who were afraid huddled behind closed doors and were surprised to discover what Jesus meant when He said He would not leave us alone or without power. And so today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. We ask that You would continue to join people together of different languages, races, and nationalities.
We recognize that on that day the Holy Spirit entered into a mob and turned them into converts in the power of Your Holy Spirit. We praise You that Your Spirit still moves among us, bringing unity among diverse peoples. We cry out to You for Your unifying power today. Even as restrictions begin to lift and we dare to venture short distances from our homes, we look in on crimes of racial injustice that sicken us. During these unsettling times, God of justice, we pray that You embolden us to live out our faith. Open our ears to the pleas of the oppressed and give us the strength to stand with them. When angry words are hurled and violence ensues we look to the example of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who mobilized orderly masses to march for peace. Teach us to show the love of Christ when righteous indignation wells up within us. May those of us who enjoy unearned privileged position be willing to step down to join our voices with those who face discrimination on a daily basis. May our courageous and compassionate response to the evils of our world lead those who doubt your power to a place of belief.
This week we pray for the family and friends of George Floyd. We pray for the Twin Cities, our own hometown of Grand Rapids, and so many other cities that have exploded into fiery anger at the injustice of his death. We confess that too often our law enforcement agencies and individuals act out of a racial bias and innocent lives have been lost. We pray for our police officers who are now, as a whole, slandered because of the cruel actions of a few. We are a broken people and we cannot heal ourselves. So we invoke Your Pentecost power today, life-giving breath that invigorates us to do Your will, whatever the cost to us. We promise to place the well-being of our community above personal desire. We open our hearts so that there is room for Your Spirit to dwell.
We pray for members of our congregation who are battling illness, depression, isolation, and broken relationships. We yearn for the freedoms we took for granted before the shelter-in-place mandate and fear that some of them will not return for quite some time. You have taught us during this pandemic that we are linked to one another and so we pray for the unity of the Pentecost crowd as we offer the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.