Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Prayer for the Tragedy in Norway

Loving God, darkness has covered Norway, and thick darkness has descended upon the people. Tragedy has clouded out the light.

A bomb blasted through the Regjeringskvartalet, Norway's main government building, in the center of Oslo. Some were wounded by the explosion. Others were killed. Then a short time later, shots rang out at the Labor Party's youth camp on Utøya island. Some were wounded by bullets. Others were murdered.

In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.

May your light shine on the people who were in or near the Regjeringskvartalet during the explosion. After over six decades building a free, open, and just society, this bombing must have filled Norwegians with a cloudy midnight of immense grief and righteous anger. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth.

May your light shine on the people who were gathered at the youth camp on Utøya island. After gathering for a summer program, a man dressed as a police officer asked to address the youth about the bombing in Oslo and then began shooting them with an automatic weapon. This must confound their loved ones and the survivors in ways we can only imagine. So, we do what we can, Loving God, and pray for your light to make its way in their lives – and in the recovery of the survivors.

May your light shine on the family and friends of all of those who were wounded or murdered in this act of terrorism. This tragedy has sent ripples of grief and anger through all of these people, as they ask the questions anyone would ask. Why? Why her? Why him? Why a kid? Why now? Why like this? Why? This is a moment where there is a “dark night of the soul” for many people. So, we pray that you hold them in your light. Please bless all those around them, not with platitudes, but with comforting words and healing acts. And in the weeks and months ahead, bless them with a passion for seeking justice and building a more peaceful world.

May your light shine on all of us who are saddened and sickened by the news of this act of violence. We suffer from afar as we hear about this on our TVs, and read about it on our computers and in our newspapers. In our own work of processing this event, Holy God, bless us with enough hope to build a better world, enough grace to respect diversity, and enough frustration to reject acts and symbols of violence in our world.

May your light shine on the murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, whose darkness overcame his light. Perhaps he has a long history of perverse decision making. Perhaps his family history was painful. Perhaps his social life was conflictual. Perhaps his mental health was compromised. Perhaps his community of support was of little support. Whatever darkness overtook this man, may there be a way for light to peek through into his life.

May your light shine on the friends and family of the murderer – who may be asking questions for which there are no easy answers. May their sadness, anger, guilt, and shame be accepted by those around them, as they process this situation. And someday, may they be able to see and know that light does shine in the darkness - and the darkness will not overcome it.

And may your light shine on the political pundits and shock jocks who fill the media with hatred, rage, and incivility. There’s no such thing as a lone gunman – and sometimes the rage on the airwaves is enough to tip the balance of an already imbalanced person. Yet the people who fill the airways with this kind of darkness need light, too. So, Loving God, through your light, may they see the damage that their words do to the civil discourse in our world. And may their hearts be softened, their words be tempered, and their styles of engagement be changed, so that their positions in the media can be used in the service of fostering a more civil, gracious, and peaceful world.

Even in the midst of this tragedy, may we hold onto the hope that your light will continue to shine forth in the darkness until we are able to boldly proclaim, with the author of Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of God has risen within us.” Amen.

This prayer is based on Isaiah 60:1-2.

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