“…keep awake therefore…” Matthew 25:13
Could it be that we’re suffering from empathy fatigue? Empathy fatigue involves giving away a piece of ourselves every time there is a wound. Eventually the giver suffers wounded-ness as well and is in need of healing. While definitions vary on mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that archives gun incidents, a mass shooting involves “four or more individuals being shot or killed in the same general time or location”. Since the beginning of 2017 the United States has experienced three hundred and seven mass shootings. On Sunday, while honoring All Saints Day, churches across the country were remembering those faithful who have lost their lives in the past year, another mass shooting occurred. A lone gunman easily found his way into the small congregation of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire killing twenty six, half of whom were children. What do we do? Is empathy fatigue seeping in? Or, do we do what we’ve done throughout the other mass shootings? We pray. We pray for the lost, the suffering, the grieving. How many more times will we once again offer up prayers to those suffering from the horrors of mass shootings?
Once again, Bishops United Against Gun Violence have offered up a statement:
“In prayer, Christians commend the souls of the faithful departed to the mercy and love of God. We beseech our Creator to comfort the grieving and shield the vulnerable. Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives…Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them. In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episodes of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase “thoughts and prayers…”
One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.
Our Book of Common Prayer teaches, “prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with our without words.” May our prayers be our reaction to empathy fatigue as a deliberate course of action toward healing. What will our prayers look like? Well, yesterday Virginia took action as well over two million people chose to live out their prayer life getting to a polling station to elect a new governor and other public servants. Did we vote in light of Sunday’s mass shooting? Perhaps, as numbers at the polls were high. Did we vote as instruments of healing? Let’s hope so. Is our voting a form of prayer in reaction to empathy fatigue? If we want to call our voting a resolve to amend our lives to combat evil, then so be it. And, while for some prayer may be seen as just another platitude, may we be certain that God never tolerates empathy fatigue, acceptance of needless violence, and hatred as a standard for living as a child of God in our world.
Perhaps our prayer will be in the form of writing our elected leaders demanding change that will bring an end to gun violence. Perhaps our prayer will be a non-confrontational march demanding legal action. Or, maybe our prayer is a peaceful encounter with our enemy that results in healing dialogue. As faithful Christians, we’re about praying and praying changes lives, especially when prayer is in response to God’s call to action.
On Sunday, we’ll look at Jesus’ story of the Ten Bridesmaids. Five are about prayerful action. Five suffer from empathy fatigue. When it’s time to lavish in the glory of God’s kingdom wedding banquet, not all are ready to enter. Jesus completes the story with accountability: keep awake. As agents of Christ’s kingdom living, may we all in our prayerful preparation, keep alert, keep awake to God in Christ bringing healing power to our broken world.
We’ll be offering up our pledge commitments to the glory of God on Sunday in worship. Once again, we’re asking for a 100% commitment in pledging from ALL with Epiphany. Your pledging, no matter how small or how big, your pledging matters. So, pray, and then act, pledging whatever amount you’re able to sacrifice. I promise, your pledge will make a difference in the life of Epiphany as we continue to GROW. Kids will be in Sunday School and join us in time to make their pledge promises as well. Following worship, in fifteen minutes or less, we’ll do what we always do well, we’ll pack 200 meals for Food4Thought providing healthy meals to Fairfax County School kids. We can be certain, in the life of Epiphany, our prayer life truly is active! Thanks be to God!
Pray, my friends. Pray with conviction. Pray with action. Pray with promise. Pray with hope. Pray knowing full well that God in Christ works in our prayer to change us and change the world.
Don’t forget to bring your gently used, clean clothes and small household items to the back of the worship space between now and Saturday at noon. These items will help others and help fund our Food4Thought ministry! That’s prayer in action for sure! No empathy fatigue here!
See you as the week goes along and on Sunday most faithful folks.