OPENING PRAYER: Loss is Indeed our Gain (Walter Brueggemann)
The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial —
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 7, 2016
San Francisco Police Shoot and Kill Luis Gongora
On April 7, 2016, a 45-year old Yucatec Mayan man named Luis Gongora was fatally shot by San Francisco Police Department officers Nate Steger and Michael Mellone, near a homeless encampment in the Mission District of San Francisco. Gongora, who was homeless at the time, was shot at six times shortly after the officers arrived on the scene. He died the next day. While the SFPD officers’ statements alleged that Gongora lunged at them with a knife and refused to put the knife down when asked, many eye witness accounts contradicted their statements, claiming that Gongora didn’t present any visible threat to the police. Autopsies later found that the gunshot wound to Gongora’s head was “downward” facing, which suggested that Gongora was down on the ground at the time of the shooting.
Following this shooting, friends and family of Gongora shared that he had fallen on hard times before his death. As a native of Yucatan, Gongora had come to San Francisco as an immigrant worker to earn money for his wife and three children. Like many others in San Francisco, the forces of gentrification and rising housing costs caused him and his brother to be evicted in 2012, and he had been homeless for several years. His cousin, Luis Poot Pat, also shared that as an indigenous man who spoke Mayan and did not understand Spanish, Gongora could not have understood what the police were communicating to him, especially since the shooting occurred within 30 seconds of the officers arriving on scene.
Many activists and police watchdogs criticized the event as a breach of de-escalation tactics that were pushed by SFPD following the shooting of Mario Woods, which happened just several months earlier (in December of 2015). Less than a month later, activists organized a 17-day hunger strike outside the Mission Police Station to demonstrate against recent episodes of police brutality, use-of-force violations, and racial bias plaguing SF Police. This group came to be known as the Frisco Five and also called on SF Police Chief Greg Suhr to step down, seeking to hold him accountable for increased police brutality in San Francisco. Days after the strike ended, yet another police killing, of an African American woman named Jessica Williams (who was four months pregnant at the time), prompted the resignation of Chief Suhr.
While San Francisco has recently claimed itself as a “Sanctuary City,” the killing of Luis Gongora highlighted the intersection of struggles faced by low income people of color in city of San Francisco: indigenous people’s struggles, housing rights, illegal evictions, immigrant rights, homelessness, racial profiling, and police brutality. As his cousin, Luis Poot Pat, states:
“My cousin suffered many injustices to get to this Sanctuary City only to face more cruelty here. He suffered poverty, forced migration, low wages, illegal eviction, homelessness and discrimination, only to be killed by an act of senseless police brutality in less than 30 seconds.”
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: AMOS 8:2-8
The Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
3 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
4 Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
8 “Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day38
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: For the Protection of the Body (Kenji Kuramitsu, 2016)
Holy God, Architect of Creation,
you breathed out the galaxies and the seas,
and every inch of the universe
from the webbing behind our ears
to the neurons in our minds is yours.
In calling our world “very good”
you have called our bodies to be
living sacraments for you,
bringing justice to bear truth, in life and in death.
Teach us to not fear the unknown,
but to celebrate your life in our skin and bones.
Guard our flesh from rubber bullets, tear gas
and piercing metal,
and protect us from being separated from our bodies,
our temples of life,
that Jesus’ resurrected flesh may be alive in our midst.
-From: A Booklet of Uncommon Prayer: Collects for the #BlackLivesMatter Movement—and beyond