Bottomless Cup Press presents “A Complaint Before the Court of Coronavirus Justice”

Please download the PDF version of the prayer/poem that includes commentary for use in worship or group settings.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Keeper of the Universe.
You have thus far kept us alive and preserved us.
Though Sister Death arrives with swiftness now into our circles of care,
We praise You and remember that You alone
are keeper of the Book of Life.
It is You who sends Your Angel Death into the world dressed as a broom;
You who fashioned us from earth, mixing straw and mud with Your own breath.
You blew Time into our nostrils, making our days like fruitful herbs,
which green up in morning, flower and flourish at noon, then fade by close of day.
In humility and grief, we stand before You now, mindful of all we have not loved.
We acknowledge through tears and fears, through our grief, sharp or dulled,
that You alone are God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
We, though many, are not gods. And now, small and frightened, we stand
before the power of viral death that sweeps through the corners of our world.
We are small and afraid of the media’s measuring stick of dead and infected.
We are small and afraid before the needs of our family, neighbors, and congregations.
We are small and afraid listening to tales told by rulers who are full of sound and fury.
We are small and afraid in the face of scarcity and those who demand to be paid.
We are small and afraid before our isolated, individual selves—
self-quarantined, sheltering in place, locked down—and we long for the casual
affections of others.

Yet,
though our sins flow behind us for all the world to see,
we bring, like the Prophet Jeremiah, a complaint before Your court of
coronavirus justice:
If we have taken to heart your command to honor our fathers and mothers,
why must they succumb so quickly to death?
If rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, why are the unjust given an umbrella?
If you promise care for the poor, why are these deprived of work, denied
adequate health care, prevented from accessing Covid-19 tests?
If we train our children for school, why must they now study mourning instead of math?
Why must the best and bravest among us—medical teams, chaplains, ambulance
drivers, grocery clerks—be repaid so harshly for their service?
Why must those with power abuse it through selfishness, hoarding, and greed?
Why, when our nation spends billions on defense, have we been left so defenseless?
Lord, Our God, Death arrives among all like the sound like a shoe with no foot
in it, like a suit with no man in it
.
We protest and demand justice. What are we to do?
And the Lord God said to them:
“O Mortal One, O Empty Suit, O Shoe with No Foot, listen to what I have to say:
You have sacrificed my poor ones at the altar of your stock market.
You have wasted my good Creation, the gift I gave you for your delight and healing.
You have treated sacred life as something to be bought and sold.
You have driven me from your hearts and trapped me in memorials to false pasts.
You have enslaved my people in your profit prisons,
separated me from my families with your harsh policies,
and put your trust in gods of metal, weapons of war, and handguns of fake
heroism.
O Mortal One, like riotous purple wildflowers in an afternoon field have I loved you.
I put my own heart beating within you and wrote there my wedding vow.
You are my beloved. Return to me with all your heart.”

From the mercy seat, a Great Silence went out across the earth.
Then the people said:

[Insert individual or communal responses here.]

Rose Marie Berger, author of Bending the Arch: Poems, is senior editor at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C.

William Stringfellow on the Power of the State

“Remember, now, that the State has only one power it can use against human beings: death.  The State can persecute you, prosecute you, imprison you, exile you, execute you.  All of these mean the same thing.  The State can consign you to death.  The grace of Jesus Christ in this life is that death fails.  There is nothing the State can do to you, or to me, which we need fear.”–William Stringfellow (Second Birthday)

Video: Ya-Ya Says, ‘A White Man Ran Around the Corner and Punched Me in the Face’


(Video photography and Editing: Travis Houze)

Here’s a taste of the devastating testimonial given at a demonstration last night in Columbia Heights, D.C., by two young African-American women, Erica and Hadaiyah Ya-Ya Bey, from D.C., on their return from Ferguson, MO, where there have been nearly two weeks of demonstrations against the police regarding the murder by the police of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, on Aug. 9 and rising questions of police responsibility, police brutality, militarization of police, and more. (You might recognize the woman in the white shirt in the opening section.)

Ya-Ya said through her tears, “The first night that we got there … it was 8:30 and the police started gassing and shooting. And Erica, Erica was my partner down there, we were running from bullets and I was right behind her. Maybe a few feet behind her. And a white man ran around the corner in between us and punched me in my face … and told me to ‘sit the F down.’ Uhhhm, that’s why I have this black eye …”

This is what the principality and power of death looks like when it is “at home, rather than at work in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, Afghanistan, Egypt, or the Corrections Corporation of America. It has no problem using whatever tools are at its disposal to crush the souls — and sometimes bodies — of living human beings.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this mechanism of Empire and what it does to those who are righteous and trying to live in the land: “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).–Rose Berger