This past Sunday, I had the privilege of leading intercessions at our church. Shaped by thoughts from friends and by a challenging reflection written by Jacob, this is what we prayed… 

Stones have a special character in Judaism. After the miraculous crossing of the River Jordan, stones were erected to remember that God had rescued his people. In the Bible, an altar is a pile of stones upon which one makes an offering to God. Today, in Jewish cemeteries, you will not see flowers on the graves. Instead, there are stones, small and large, piled without pattern on the grave. There is something fitting about the antiquity and solidity of the Jewish symbol of a stone. In moments when we face the fragility of life, memorial stones remind us that there is permanence amidst the pain. While other things fade, stones and souls endure. On this Holocaust Memorial Sunday, I invite you to join me for a time of intercessions, after which you are welcome to lay a stone here in memorial of those who suffered and died.

Today, we take care to remember the evils of the Holocaust and nurture the memories of the victims, survivors, rescuers, and resistors. We remember other genocides and wars, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and Syria. We remember our own responsibility to show fierce love for our neighbors and bring God’s shalom to earth, that violence and injustice may cease.

In the extra-biblical Hebrew tradition, there is a prayer attributed to Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther. The words are fitting for this memorial day. Let us pray with Mordecai, who lived in days of trouble and peril:

O Lord, Lord, King who rulest over all things, for the universe is in thy power and there is no one who can oppose thee if it is thy will to save Israel. For thou hast made heaven and earth and every wonderful thing under heaven, and thou art Lord of all, and there is no one who can resist thee… O Lord God and King, God of Abraham, spare thy people; for the eyes of our foes are upon us to annihilate us, and they desire to destroy the inheritance that has been thine from the beginning. Do not neglect thy portion, which thou didst redeem for thyself out of the land of Egypt. Hear my prayer, and have mercy upon thy inheritance; turn our mourning into feasting, that we may live and sing praise to thy name, O Lord. (Esther 13.9-11, 15-17 RSVCE)