Lament for Ahmaud Arbery
May 8, 2020
O Lord, we come before your throne in excruciating pain and immense sorrow. We cry out echoing the psalmist, asking, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2). We are outraged by racial violence and overwhelmed by how frequently it is expressed in our country.
Lord, many within the body of Christ, and our Covenant family, are haunted by what can feel like your silence amid unspeakable tragedy. Lord, we petition you to console our brokenhearted sisters and brothers, drawing them near to you. May you restore their souls by making your presence felt and love concretely known.
We lament that the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 is the latest of too many young, unarmed, African American men whose lives have been needlessly cut short by senseless violence. Lord, we are weary of the frequency of these deaths. Today would have been Ahmaud’s 26th birthday, and we have been grieving with and praying for Ahmaud’s parents, Wanda Cooper-James and Marcus James. Through tears, Mrs. Cooper-James explained that her son had a routine of jogging in their neighborhood and was minding his business when his life was taken. Our hearts particularly break for her as we enter Mother’s Day weekend.
It grieves us deeply that two men walked free for more than two months before video of Ahmaud’s death was released this week. On Thursday, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. Practicing solidarity means we are called to develop awareness and to confront systems of injustice.
While there may be many unanswered questions regarding the details of this case, we do not need to know all the details in order to weep with those who are weeping and mourn with a family who is mourning. Our hearts need to be broken by the injustices of sin. We need to sit with the weight of despair before rushing to action. Lament, confession, and repentance are spiritual practices that reorient and sustain us amid tragedy. They lead us into the presence of God and help us discern what faithfulness looks like moving forward.
Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, who was assassinated in 1980, wrote, “The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: ‘You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.’”
Today, we find ourselves in such a moment, in a time where we must speak the truth, to point out the sin of racism plaguing our nation and commit ourselves to uprooting it. We know that we are incapable of ending racism and transforming callous hearts in our own strength, so we petition the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and empower us. The Evangelical Covenant Church is committed to overcoming fear, hatred, and violence with the cruciform love of Christ. May the world know that we are Christ’s disciples because of our sacrificial love for one another. We submit ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit, asking God to renew our minds.
Lord, we pray Psalm 139:23-24 today, asking you to search us and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. God, we put our trust in you, knowing that you are sovereign even when we cannot see or feel your presence. We know that you are the one who brings life out of death, and that not only are you able, but that you will, in time, heal our land.
John S. Wenrich, President
Paul Robinson, Executive Minister, Love Mercy Do Justice
Dominique Gilliard, Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation, Love Mercy Do Justice