A Prayer in the Midst of Division

A depiction of the power struggle between Jacob and Esau. Art by Yoram Ranaan

“The LORD said, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided…” [2]

Holy One, we are a country that may as well be two nations.  For we are at war with one another.  Though many call America their homeland (whether born upon her soil or journeying to her shores from distant lands), we are sorely divided.     Indeed, we even struggle with those closest to us, besides the enmity painfully evident elsewhere.  Before you and you alone, we confess that our predilection for division runs deep.

So, when your beloved son, Jesus asked, “Who is my mother, and my brother and my sisters,” [3] how could he have done so knowing that his biological family was just outside, waiting for him to return home?    What could his hearers have been thinking, given the ironclad grip of familial bonds in his day?   Was the One who spoke of honoring your mother and father as stated in the Ten Commandments, nevertheless spurning his own?

Yet we thanks that after making this declaration, Jesus answered his own question.   And by answering it, your son testified that love of God AND the love of neighbor [4] applies to all humanity, O God, not just those who are immediate members of our biological family, our local church, or tribe.  Instead, as our Sovereign, you created us to be far, far more inclusive than we alone can fathom.   For under the shelter of your love you call forth the new family: that includes the foreigner, the welfare mother, the unemployed, the transgendered, the homeless, the uninsured, the elderly, the disabled, the indigenous, and all people of color, not just those who think and look like we do.

We give thanks that having said these words, your son then stretched out his hand toward his followers, saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  O God, in your love and mercy, we beseech you to mend our weary hearts and ease our burdened minds, so that we might embrace the fullness of your incarnation and be healed.  For when we dare to manifest what love of God and love of neighbor actually looks like, we celebrate your kindom and the goodness of all creation.  We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

[1]  A depiction of the power struggle between Jacob and Esau, by Yoram Ranaan

[2] Genesis 25:23

[3] Matthew 12:48-50 (these verses immediately precede this week’s lectionary reading, setting the context for Matthew 13:1-9)

[4] Love of God and love of neighbor are the anchors Jesus used to succinctly illustrate what is required of us.  Mark 12:30-31, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.   The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.”

Author: Jessica McArdle

These are dark and corrosive times. As a writer and ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, I use prayer, poetry, reflection, and scripture to re-align our embattled spirits with the uniqueness and urgency of our God-given identity and call.

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