The Line Between Good and Evil

IMG_20170813_221108845-01.jpegGenesis 1:26-31   Isaiah 58:6-12
Wednesday afternoon prayer service

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my father. In March of 1945 he, along with many other American and French soldiers, liberated a French Citadel along the Maginot Line that had been twice captured and occupied by Nazi soldiers. In the streets of this citadel loomed huge flowing red banners with black and white swastikas emblazoned upon them. Decades after this event, my father would unfold the one banner he tore down from those streets to show his daughter why he went to war and to explain why the evil actions of our fellow humans must be ended and justice for all people must be our goal.

For days now I have watched the videos of primarily young men, many close to the age my father was when he walked the streets of that Citadel, shouting horrible things, proclaiming whiteness to be the pinnacle of what it means to be a human, frequently displaying that hideous swastika. All I can see in my mind is that banner. Dirty, rotting, riddled with bullet holes. This is why the evil actions of our fellow humans must be ended and justice for all people must be our goal.

How have we forgotten something we once collectively clearly knew was evil?

But I am not sure that speaking about Nazis really tells the whole story. It would be easy to only talk about them because “Nazi” has become a kind of short hand for racist, violent, abhorrent, intolerable, and hate filled actions and world view. It’s easy to say Those Guys over There are the BAD ones and we can tell because of how they are dressed or who they associate with. But we know that is too easy. We know that we are, as we confess here every Sunday, all of us, in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves without the help of God. The line dividing good from evil cuts through the heart of every human being. With the gracious help of God, we must use the courage and wisdom God grants us to look at ourselves, our community, our national culture and root out hatred and bigotry and racism and the desire to see human beings as things to be ranked Most Valuable to Least Valuable.

To objectify another person, to treat them as a thing and not a person, is to nullify the image of God in them. To hate another person is to hate the image of God in them. But all human beings, without exception, are bearers of the Image of God. All. There are no exceptions for shade of skin, sexuality, gender, financial status, religious belief, or any other supposed quality that could give reason to draw lines to create an Us and a Them. We are one human family, beloved of God, so let us work together to make that love something that can be seen and felt every day. I invite you to join me in this litany of confession prayer for God’s mercy and help.

This litany is a modified version of this litany. I’d like to thank them for sharing it with others for use in congregations.

LITANY
P: In the beginning, you created humanity and, in your grace, declared us very good. We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt. Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, are rooted in dark skin. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

C: We are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: Violence stormed into creation through brothers. Cain and Abel. Born of jealousy, rooted in fear, brother turned against brother. The blood soaked soil cried out to heaven. Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

C: We are all sisters and brothers. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: When your people cried out from Egypt, from their bonds of slavery, you heard them. You raised up leaders who would speak truth to power and lead your people into freedom. Let us hear your voice, O God, grant us courage to answer your call. Guide us towards justice and freedom for all people. Use our hands, voices and hearts to break the bonds of oppression and hatred.

C: We are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: Through the prophet Isaiah you called for our worship to be to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke; Yet we continue to serve our own interest, To oppress our workers, to crush our siblings by the neck because we are afraid. Because they don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us. Yet, they are us. And we are them.

C: We are all sisters and brothers. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son, Born in poverty, living under the rule of a foreign empire, Brown-skinned, dark-haired, middle-Eastern. They called him Yeshua, your Son, who welcomed the unwelcome, accepted the unacceptable—the foreigners, the radicals, the illiterate, the poor, the agents of empire and the ones who sought to overthrow it, the men and women who were deemed unclean because of their illness.

C: We are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: The faith of Christ spread from region to region, culture to culture. You delight in the many voices, many languages, raised to you. Yet we recoil from the “other”. You teach us that in Christ, “There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female.” Yet we make hierarchy and division. In Christ, we are all one. Not in spite of our differences, but in them. All colors, all genders, all ethnicities. In Christ we are all one.

C: We are all sisters and brothers. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: Though we often doubt or forget, we know that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves without you. We are captive to the sins of idolatry and hatred, seen in white supremacy, racial violence, seeking to dominate others and so many other ways. We value some lives more than others, though Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and love our enemies. We confess our complicity in this sin and ask you to teach and lead us to love one another as you have loved us. Create in us new hearts, O God. Renew us and all of creation.

C: We are all sisters and brothers. We are all related. O God, we are all your children.

P: We pray this as your children, all brothers and sisters, all one family, all your beloved children of God.

C: Amen

Scripture references in the Litany:
Petition 1 &2: Genesis, Petition 3: Exodus, Petition 4 Isaiah 58
Petition 5: The Gospels, Petition 6: Acts, Galatians
Petition 7: Luke 6, Matthew 5, John 13, Psalm 51

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