A Prayer for Our City

I haven’t been sleeping much. The violence in our new hometown of St. Louis is breaking my heart. I changed my sermon at the last minute and preached about it a bit this past Sunday, following the shooting of Michael Brown. But last night, the violence came closer to me and my kid and I was afraid. I wrote this on my phone around 1:30am. I chanted it to myself and to God, over and over again, until I fell asleep.

I believe in God.
I love God.
I know God loves me.

I also love the city. I love the activity, the museums, the parks, the restaurants, and mostly, the people. I think God loves cities. So much of our biblical history takes place in cities.

I came to the city, to this city, by both call and by choice. Yes, I felt called, and a congregation felt called to me, too. But also, I chose to hear and flow that call. And they did too.

It was important for me to live in the city. I don’t know how pastors serve urban churches when they don’t love in the city. It seems false to me. How do you preach, week after week, to people who are living a different reality than you are? I fought to live in the city. In this neighborhood. I wanted to be able to walk to church. I wanted neighbors to walk into our church. I drove the streets and walked the sidewalks for weeks. I applied for more than a handful of apartments. I was out on waiting lists and I was rejected. I wrote letters and threw my clergy status around and plead my case. Church members wanted me to give up and move to the nearby suburbs. I held strong, even though it meant we stayed in hotels and with church members for long than anyone wanted. I finally found an apartment in the city, in the church’s neighborhood, on a lovely block and moved in today. Just today.

And as I was putting my kid to bed tonight, four blocks away, a man was shot while out walking his dogs. Two men tried to rob him. The man didn’t have anything on him. They shot him.

This city, this incredible, creative, friendly, vibrant city is heartbroken this week. The tragedy in Ferguson is all over us. People are angry. People are scared. People are anxious.

I am scared. I am worried. I am furious. But I am hopeful. I am trying to focus on the hopeful.

Neighbors are talking to one another. Business owners are talking to one another. Clergy and community organizers are sharing. We are building relationships. We are looking out for each other.

So, tonight, another night when sleep evades me, replaced by worry and fear, and although I jump at every frog chirp and ice maker shift, I am hopeful.

Because I believe in a God who loves me. Who loves us. Who loves cities. And I believe this city is starting to work together.

Amen.

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