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Pittsburgh Vigil

Standing publicly with those who have suffered.

To stand with others. Is this not our God-ordained mission? 

To walk beside others on their road of suffering. Is this not what Christ calls us to do? 

To lament – “How long, O Lord, how long?” Should this not be our cry too when more victims of hatred are killed in synagogues, churches, mosques, on streets, and in homes?

Yes, our mission is to stand with, to walk with, and to lament with suffering people.

In his moving hymn, Joyous Light of Heavenly Glory, Marty Haugen writes meaningful prayer-words appropriate for those who long to stand with, walk with, and lament with the oppressed: “Make us shine with gentle justice” (Lift Up Your Hearts, #389).

Why, I wonder, has it taken me so long to publicly stand with others? Why have I often kept the world’s tragedies at arm’s length?

I want to grow in justice-seeking as I live my ordinary life. I desire to more fervently follow Jesus’ call to “shine with gentle justice.”

Calling for a just world
So finally, at age 62, I went to my first vigil. On Nov. 4, I joined hundreds of people who gathered by St. Catharine’s City Hall to remember the people murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and to support the local Jewish community. Candles, flashlights and streetlights illuminated sad and sympathetic faces as police officers stood watch. The mayor, the police chief, a local politician, a student rabbi, and members of the Congregation B’nai Israel called for an end to violence, encouraging each person to take a stance against injustice in their own hearts and neighborhoods. 

I was particularly moved by the brief comments of a woman who was a member of Congregation B’nai Israel. Reminding the audience of past persecution of the Jews and calling for a just world, she revealed her personal pain when she said, “My husband is a Holocaust survivor. I live with the Holocaust every day.”

Later, as I reflected on the vigil, I thought of another line from Haugen’s song: “Mighty God of all creation, gentle Christ who lights our way, loving Spirit of salvation, lead us on to endless day.” Each speaker highlighted the need to look inward to overcome hatred, but God teaches us in his word to look to Jesus for salvation from our sinful darkness and to the Holy Spirit for his transforming power. Thank God that we may do just that. Give thanks that one day when Christ returns and makes all things new, racism and persecution will die a final death. 

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