By The Rev. Jessica K. Hitchcock
Priest in Charge, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Bethesda
These signs were uncomfortable for me to see at the March for Our Lives this past week, and I would imagine that they are uncomfortable to many of us who practice prayer. Then God sent a messenger to me, in the form of parishioner who told me in passing that she saw these signs as checklists. Think about preventing gun violence. Pray about preventing gun violence. Act about preventing gun violence. We’ve done a lot of thinking and praying. It’s time now to act. This was helpful to me.
Now I am pretty sure that at least some of the folks who were toting these posters would say they don’t want thoughts and prayers. The lines drawn through those words are intentional, and those lines mean “I’m done with thoughts and prayers. I need action.” That’s fair. People have been hurt by followers of Jesus offering thoughts and prayers, but not allowing our lives to be transformed by those thoughts and prayers. Our thoughts and prayers haven’t impacted our own lives so how could they impact the world around us?
I got chill bumps when I saw the poster that read, “What if these kids are the answer to your thoughts and prayers? Are you listening?”
Palm Sunday being the next day helped me make the connection when I prayed these words:
Surprising God, you come to our lives in ways we do not expect…. We ask for a triumphant Messiah; you come as one obedient to death. We glorify the winner; you glorify the loser who died on a criminal’s cross. Walk among us, surprising God of peace… Turn our hearts to you. (Touch Holiness).
We seek and serve a Surprising God, and yet too often we miss out on the ways that God makes God’s self known to us. These children — these fierce, articulate children — I see now, they ARE answers to our prayers. Prayer is meant to change us. Will we allow these kids to change us? Will we allow their impatience for action to change us? Will we allow the way they fight to share this unfortunate platform — and spotlight with their black and brown brothers and sisters, so often overlooked — to change us?
Presiding Bishop Curry offered these words at the Evangelism Matters conference recently “Go back to the new testament: Jesus called folks to follow him! Jesus invited folks to follow him… to learn from him…. to listen to his teaching and to allow his life to become their lives… and their lives to change the world.” Our participation in changing the world to make it safer for our children… this work is, could be – evangelism. My Episcopal Peace Fellowship t-shirt reminds me Prayer is Political Action, and all of you who marched — at Leisure World & Maplewood Retirement Community & Pennsylvania Avenue & all around God’s good earth — remind me that political action is prayer.