[this was shared during the service on 5/29/22]

This has been a heavy week full of sad news.

We grieve the horrific massacre of 19 school children and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

But then in the mix of all that we were reminded of the profoundly disorienting reality that not even churches have been safe places for children and others.

Our church cooperates with a network of almost 50,000 other Baptist churches in the US called the SBC in order to send missionaries overseas, plant new churches across North America, and provide theological education. Over the last several years news stories have come out about sexual abuse in hundreds of these churches, many times covered up by the local churches. Last year at the annual meeting of all these churches it was determined to have an open, 3rd party investigation into how the Executive Committee of the SBC dealt with this knowledge. The findings of that report were released this week and they showed a pattern of protecting power over people. I want to lead us in praying about these things right now.

Heavenly Father,

In a world full of evil we know that you alone are good. When no one else can protect us, we can run to you. When no other place is safe we can always turn to you.

We trust that you are just. You only do what is right, which includes punishing wrong, both in this life and the next. People cannot escape accountability for their atrocities, even if they die. You will make sure perfect justice is enacted for all culpable in mass shootings like the one last week in Uvalde and previously in Buffalo and all the others that seem to be happening all the time.

We find comfort in the fact that you “will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing” (Eccles. 12:14). “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Lk. 12:2). We thank you for a glimpse of that this week as dark deeds have been exposed and brought into the light through the SBC Sex Abuse Task Force report.

Father, we also remember that you are merciful. We shudder to think of what our own judgment would be if it hadn’t already been meted out on Christ on the Cross. We pray for the perpetrators of abuse, that they would be stopped, prosecuted, and punished by the government authorities that you have set up. But we also pray that this would cause them to repent and turn to Christ before facing something infinitely worse.

We believe that you can work good out of evil. We’ve seen you do that through the horror of the Cross. So we pray for the churches of Uvalde this Sunday, that your Word would be preached, that people would be awakened to eternal realities and hear the eternal gospel and come to you for eternal life. We ask that as the SBC has its annual meeting in Anaheim in a couple weeks, the recommendations of the Task Force would be heeded so that restitution could be made, better systems could be put in place, and future abuse could be prevented.

Tender Father, please comfort those who are mourning right now. For the parents who lost kids, the grandparents, the siblings… have mercy. Cause them to turn ultimately to you in their pain and for their answers and not away from you to other things. For those who witnessed the carnage but were spared, bring supernatural healing to their trauma. And for all survivors including sex abuse victims who may be triggered right now, show them your pure love. Give them courage to tell their stories and bring healing.

We pray for our church, that you would deliver us from evil. Protect us for your name’s sake. Use us to be a representative of you and your character in this city and not a stumbling block. We pray that our gathering right now would not be an exercise in human religion simply furthering a human institution, but an arena of your divine, gracious activity. Speak to us in personal ways. Be honored and worshipped. May we experience a taste of heaven in our life together. And may you draw all people to yourself.

We pray for all other churches in our city that are open in your name this morning. We pray especially for Chicagoland Community Church and its witness in the North Halsted neighborhood. We pray for pastor Jon Pennington and the recent sudden loss of his father. Give him what he needs to minister to his family and keep leading his church through his sorrow. Bless our member, Jonah, as he is leading the music at that church this morning, that he would be a blessing to that congregation and aid them in lifting their hearts to you.

And we also plead for your blessing on our work among the unreached peoples of this world, living in spiritual darkness, headed to an eternity under your wrath. Help us get the gospel to them to. We intercede especially this morning for our missionaries in Japan – Dave and Rose. Keep their marriage and family relationships strong so they can lead their team with energy and focus. And we pray that you would establish the work of their hands by establishing healthy, multiplying churches on that island that is so historically closed to the gospel.

Lord, we offer all these prayers to you because we believe you hear and act in response, that you are moving in this world, accomplishing your wise and glorious plans even when it looks bleak. We pray in the name of the One who died and behold is alive for evermore – our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.