Once again the world has been shaken by a hideous terror attack.
Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand, together with people of faith everywhere, unite in expressing our deep sympathy to the people of France, and in particular to those whose loved ones have been murdered or injured. We pray also for those who witnessed the Parisian atrocities and will endure those memories forever.
This attack reminds us to pray also for those many thousands of people, in the Middle East and elsewhere, whose lives have been torn apart by the brutality of war and terrorism. We pray for people everywhere who are grieving over the loss of loved ones, homes and safety, including the countless thousands of refugees fleeing from the horrors of war.
Twice within twelve months, Paris has been the victim of a targeted terrorist attack—but the shock waves reverberate all around the world. Murder on this scale, wherever it happens in the world, is a great evil. When it happens in a country or in a city ‘like ours’, the reality hits us harder. It is closer to home. It can make us anxious.
This time the casualty count in Paris is much higher than in the Charlie Hebdo murders in January and heightening the alarm for many, ordinary people enjoying an ordinary Friday night out were targeted. The intended message seems to be: this could happen to you, anywhere, anytime. Nobody is safe; nowhere is safe.
Many of us in the island nations of Australia and New Zealand grew up feeling relatively safe from attack. War was likely to happen in other countries, not in ours, and even if our nations were involved in someone else’s wars, we private citizens would not be personally involved. We and our children were safe from death by war.
What officials are now calling ‘home-grown terror’ rattles us because we realise that there is no human guarantee of absolute safety. We feel our ‘birthright’ has been taken from us. We can feel powerless, and some of us might feel angry or afraid; these are normal human responses. Those of us who are parents face the tough challenge of explaining all this to our children, and trying to ally their justifiable fears.
In an uncertain world St Paul’s encouragement to the Romans gains new meaning for us: ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (8:38,39).
In responding to terrorism, as in all things, we must cling only to Christ, who does not promise that our life will be without pain, anxiety or uncertainty, but that nothing—even death—can separate us from his love. Proclaiming the gospel of the love of Jesus and our safety in God is the only message that can give comfort in a world of fear.
‘Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Heb 4:16). So we pray:
Dear heavenly Father,
Thank you that you hear our cries and the cries of all come to you in need of mercy, grace and hope through Jesus.
At this time, when there have been hideous atrocities committed in Paris, we pray for the mercy, grace and true peace which you alone can give in Christ. We bring to you the people who mourn and those who are injured there in Paris, and also in other parts of the world. Lord Jesus, bring you healing and your peace.
We pray for those who live in fear for those who are called to protect. Guide the world’s leaders and particularly those leaders who will meet at the G20 Meeting in Turkey. Help us in our uncertainties, concerns and fears. Lord Jesus, bring your healing and peace.
We pray for those who are displaced because of war and for those who are separated from loved ones. Lord Jesus, bring your healing and peace.
We pray for our land, our communities, our neighbours. Be with our leaders and all who serve to care and protect the vulnerable. Lord Jesus, bring your healing and peace.
We pray for our church and for our families. Help us look to keep our eyes on Jesus, and to hear his voice as he assures us that nothing can separate us from him. Use us to bring his healing and peace to the world.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
15 November 2016