It seems like we’ve had a lot of occasions for “thoughts and prayers” lately. It’s a common response to tragedy and it’s not a bad one, either. Prayer changes the world. Prayer is a good response to natural disasters – like Hurricane Dorian, which recently pounded the Bahamas, or drought and flooding, which destroys food supplies for impoverished people – or human-made disasters – like the massive amount of mass shootings in the last few weeks in Texas, Ohio and Virginia.
But if thoughts and prayers remain only a word spoken or remembrance, I have to wonder whether they really do enough. In Luke 14 and Matthew 16, we hear Jesus speak of taking up our cross. He is speaking about the sacrifice of discipleship, true, but discipleship is learning to live a holy life, a life in which our faith is seen in how we live our lives. He does not encourage his disciples to remember the cross or pray at the foot of the cross, but to carry it. We are called, as forgiven, beloved, and claimed people of God, to act as agents of God and to care for others and the world God made.
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And how do we do this? We notice the needs of the world, pray for them, and then we work to meet them. In the face of Hurricane Dorian, I encourage prayers, but then I encourage donations to emergency agencies who are making sure that people are safe and have the funds to rebuild. In the face of world hunger, pray and then support local and global organizations who are working to feed starving people around the world. In the face of violence and hatred, whether accompanied with shootings or not, pray and then show love. That can as simple as knowing your neighbors and looking out for their welfare.
When people we know and love are hurting, thoughts and prayers are not always enough. We have to act, whether that’s baking a casserole, donating to a cause, or giving up a weekend to serve. We live in a world that is desperate for good news and we have good news to share – love wins. You are deeply, unconditionally, and irrevocably loved, just as those who are hurting are loved. As beloved people, we love others. When we love, we pray. And when we pray, we are called to action as we serve, give, and act as the hands of feet of Christ to neighbors, both down the street and across the world.