Submitted by Rev. Phil Hodson, Conference Minister
I’ve heard this as a lyric in modern Christian music, calling out to God in a victory-seeking, almost authoritarian way. Directing praise to “God-of-the-angel-armies,” which is language I once found off-putting. Then I served a predominantly military congregation where the terminology came to life. Not in a macho, winner-take-all, generic sense, but in a specific, leading, loyal, purpose-driven way — folks who gave their lives in service to others resonated with a God who shared orders and gave directives and invited their response in the world for the good of their neighbors. So I slowly began to rethink my position.
In recent weeks, Hurricane Ida has destroyed one of our churches and impacted many, many lives throughout New Orleans and across Louisiana and so many other places, too. In recent days we have seen our own government respond to those seeking a better life — people camped out under a bridge right here in Texas after spending 11 years journeying with the hope of a brighter future — by chasing down children and shipping folks back to a land they left behind long ago and likely won’t even recognize. And these two statements I have just made, overly simplistic as they are, barely scratch the surface of the challenges faced.
So we pray for somebody to do something about it. We hope it will get better. We shake our heads in disappointment and disgust. And maybe, just for a moment, we cry out to “God-of-the-angel-armies” to mobilize a squadron and make a change. But when we do all of these things we must remember what that means. Something the folks I served in that military church knew — we are the squadron we’re asking God to mobilize. And it is God’s desire that we get with the program and be the change we seek in the world! Prayer works best when we put our own feet beneath it.
I am heading to New Orleans next week to survey damage, meet with our pastors and churches, and begin to seek God’s vision for what happens next. And today I put my name and office on a letter crafted by our Justice and Witness Ministries office in Washington, DC, to ask the administration to rethink its present course on the refugee crisis here in Texas.
I will, in ways that I can, put my feet beneath my prayers. What about you? We are going to need, at some point soon, teams to go into Louisiana and help rebuild — both the walls of our own churches and the walls of our neighbors, too. Will you join me in that effort? If so, email me. And we need more to participate in the work of this letter, to lend the voices of our United Church of Christ, laity and pastors alike, to call out for justice. If that voice is yours, you can read the letter here and sign it here.
Let’s put feet beneath our prayers and be the squadron of hope and healing we pray for.
Rev. Phil Hodson
South Central Conference, United Church of Christ
3610 River Road
New Braunfels, TX 78132