by Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings
What if Noah had chosen not to act?
What if Noah had heard the voice of God speaking to him, telling him to build the ark, to gather the animals, and he chose to do nothing?
After all, building an ark is hard.
People probably thought he was super weird. Crazy, even.
I can’t even imagine how much work was involved in gathering all of the animals, all of the birds, the crawling things. The goats. Have you ever tried to get a goat to do anything? I have. Her name was Elvira and she existed to do whatever I didn’t want her to do.
What was it like for him to convince his family to go along with this whole thing? I mean, he had to have given up his day job to build the ark. He couldn’t have been bringing home any money. How did the family get by?
What if Noah had just assumed God would actually build the ark for him? Or gather all of the animals for him?
What if Noah, once on the boat, having followed God’s instructions, had decided he didn’t need to care for the animals. What if he just prayed to God to care for the animals, and worked under the assumption that God would, in fact, care for the animals? I mean, he asked for God to do it, right? So it would be done. God would take care of it.
What if Jesus had decided to just stay in the desert praying. What if he had just sat there and prayed for the salvation of the world, prayed for God’s kingdom to come, prayed that people would learn how to love one another, prayed that someone would spread his message? What if he sat there and, with his considerable power, he sent his #thoughtsandprayers to God that the people might know him?
What if Peter and Paul had just prayed that God would guide and support the churches in Asia Minor, Ephesus, Rome… What if they wrote letters that said, “Hey, I know y’all are having a hard time, but my #thoughtsandprayers are with you?”
Where would we be?
What would our story look like?
Would we even be here to have a story at all?
Every time there is a larger mass shooting (if I did it for every mass shooting, defined as 4 or more people, I would do this almost every day), every time our politicians start tweeting our their #thoughtsandprayers, I share these words by Dr. King from his sermon, “The answer to a perplexing question” (which you can find in its entirety here). The perplexing question is how we eradicate evil. Read the whole thing. Hell, read it all for your sermon on Sunday.
Prayer is a marvelous supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous substitute... we must never feel that God will, through some breathtaking miracle or wave of the hand, cast evil out of the world. As long as we believe this we will pray unanswerable prayers and ask God to do things that he will never do. The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself. It, too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition. "
This problem of gun violence is not as easy as legislating restrictions on guns.
We have a gun problem, for sure.
We also have a crisis of masculinity.
And a misogyny problem.
And a broken mental health system.
And a lack of empathy and compassion.
And a problem with campaign finance.
And, and, and.
None of these will be solved by sitting and praying about them alone.
They require action.
Some require legislation.
Some require teaching differently.
Some require acting differently.
All require dismantling our systems as they are and daring to dream of constructing something new. Something better.
This can’t be done through prayer alone.
God won’t stop this for us.
God won’t stop the killing of innocent children. Of women. Of people at clubs and concerts.
God won’t take away our guns.
God won’t create a better mental healthcare system.
God won’t fix toxic masculinity.
At least not without our participation.
Not without our yes.
God calls us to more.
God calls us to action.
God calls us to get on the ark, to care fo the animals, to leave the desert, to visit the people, to write the letters, to do everything we possibly can for change.
This Lenten season, to hell with fasting.
It’s time we act.
It’s time we shout.
It’s time we cry out for justice and do not stop until we see action.
As the prophet Isaiah says, “Cry out, do not hold back!”
I know some of you serve in places where this message will be hard. I may be going to hard. But we have to do something. Too many people are dying. Be willing to piss people off. Preach the Gospel. Courage friends. It’s time to work for change.