It’s been a grim stretch of weeks, filled with reports of terror attacks, police shootings, ambushes, attempted coups and on and on and on. The political cartoon in the San Jose Mercury News showed a woman carrying a newspaper filled with grim headlines opening a cupboard labeled “Thoughts & Prayers,” only to find the shelves bare.
However, the more than 200 people who gathered at Santa Teresa Catholic Church in San Jose on Wednesday evening did not find the cupboard empty. Leaders of religious communities including Baha’is, Zen Buddhists and True Land Buddhists, Sunni and Ahmadiyya Muslims, Catholic and Baptist Christians, Jews and Unitarians brought prayers, chants, and meditations for peace and healing. They reminded attendees of the call for peacemaking, compassion, and respect that lies deep at the heart of diverse religious traditions. As we lit candles at the end of the service and circled the sanctuary, one could almost see the web of relationships, light, and prayer that linked the participants together and tied us with others around the world.
These were my comments for the evening:
Over these past few weeks and months, as we sit at our breakfast tables with the morning newspaper, or watch events unfolding on TV, or find ourselves awash in comments on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media that may be informed and thoughtful or opinionated and angry, we may find an echo of our souls in the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.
19 Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?
9 O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!
Amid the grief and confusion, amid the loud voices of anger, frustration, and vengeance, amid swirling tides of suspicion, prejudice, and violence, it is all too easy to overlook the continuing presence of compassion and purpose, faith, service, and peacemaking, bridge-building, inclusiveness and nonviolence in our communities and in our faith traditions.
In response to the tragedies of the past months in Dhaka, Baghdad, Somalia, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge, Wurzburg, Kazakhstan, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Orlando, Paris, Kabul, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Dallas and so many more that we cannot name them, people of deep faith and deep compassion have risen up, seeking to bring healing and compassionate action to our broken world. And so we, too, come together to root ourselves deeply in our respective traditions so that we may in turn affirm our connections to one another as members of one human family.
In my own American Baptist tradition, our leaders have responded by encouraging our whole faith community to join in prayer throughout these days. The call has gone forth:
Please pray upon rising and retiring each day, seeking God’s grace for healing and wholeness throughout this country and the world. Pray for healthy alternatives to violence. Pray for those who don’t know what to do with their anger and frustration. Pray for those who have signed on to protect and serve. Pray for insight into what you can do to help bring hope and healing.
May those of you who find these words and actions meaningful join us in this prayer. And if you might find meaning and sustenance in other words or other actions, please bring them with you as we stand together to build a more just and compassionate community, nation, and world.
 Jeremiah 8:18–9:1 (NRSV)
 American Baptist Churches USA Issues Urgent Call to Prayer 7/20/16