Loving God, Ancient of Days, so often we lift our prayers to you driven by our emotions. Frightened by the evident dangers- natural and man-made- which the world faces, we cry out clumsily like little children. Enraged by the evident injustices the world faces, we strike out verbally to establish our own opposition. Squelched by grief, we try to find our voices and attempt to take comfort in your promise that we will be heard even when we cannot speak. Aroused by love, we pray from our desire to reciprocate. Too often we forget that even in the midst of tragedy and trial, there are moments of joy, and we should share them.
This week, Loving God, we have known the feast day of St. Lawrence. Of Spanish origin, Lawrence was martyred in Rome by the Emperor Valerian, and he is now venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church. Stories and legends from his life and death give us some insight into contemporary difficulties, so that we may pray with hope in our hearts and with an appreciation of irony in our minds.
It is said that when Lawrence was ordered to turn over the treasures of the church to the government that he temporized, asking for three days to gather the treasures. Then he used the three days to give away everything that he could. At the end of the three days, he presented the poor and the marginalized to the Emperor as the true riches of the church. Dear God, there are so many times and so many ways in which we ought to temporize: landslides caused by hurricane/tropical storm Earl have left a path of destruction across Mexico and Belize. Flooding in Macedonia has injured many and killed more than 20. We pray for prompt emergency response. We pray for the strength of purpose not to let concern die away with the news cycle but to energize the work and workers that will be needed to rebuild.
At the agreed time, Lawrence brought the true riches of the church to the Emperor, bringing a motley collection of the poor and marginalized. We pray for the ability to determine for ourselves an unexpected response to an unreasonable demand. We pray for the ability to walk past our temptation to respond with impotent fury, and to look for something unexpected. When we read or see or hear that more than 90 protesters in Ethiopia have been killed, we are so angry that we want to scream. We pray, however, that you will give us insight to realize that sneaking footage out to Facebook is a far more worthy way to combat such injustice. When more than half of the reports leaked by The Guardian/Australia describe child abuse, we are appalled. We want to pray to you to fix it, to make it never to have happened, but we should not forget to pray, as we do pray, for the true riches of knowing how serious and how enduring these problems are. We pray that we accept this wealth of purpose. We pray that systemic loss be met with systemic repair.
Lawrence was cruelly and slowly executed, a persistent legend tells us, by being roasted on a gridiron with coals underneath. It is said that after suffering for several hours, he turned to his murderers and said, “I’m well done. Turn me over.”. Not only did he earn his patronage of comedians that way, but also he can still inspire us to respond to global troubles with a vision both sidelong and profound. We can see that attacks on persons and classes of persons are not just wrong. They are also absurd. In the United States, a newly released report on policing in Baltimore does not so much tell us something new as it tells us what is really true. We are well enough informed. Our God, we pray for the strength to act on what we know.
In the midst of so many things which confound and discourage us, Gracious God, we give thanks for the Olympic Games being held in Brazil, with the countless athletes coming together to share in an event which can bring unity and the joy of good sportsmanship and comradeship among those from very different places and backgrounds.
Many of us who share these prayers live lives of relative comfort and safety. Many of us who share these prayers have access to resources that others need desperately, more access than they themselves have. Our ability to share what we can with those who need what we can share represents today as it did almost 2000 years ago the true riches of your kingdom. For that we offer our love, praise, and enthusiasm. Amen.