In response to all the death… a letter to Martin Luther Church

Dear Saints gathered at Martin Luther Lutheran Church,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I constantly give thanks because of what our community has been formed into: a diverse community centered on the love of Jesus Christ. Black & white, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, young and old; we all gather and center our community on the love and grace of Christ. This diversity found both in our congregation, and in our neighborhood that we love, means that certain events impact us in unique ways. The news of the killing of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the many officers of the Dallas police force are signs that we have entered into one of those times that impact our diverse community. As we enter into an age that seems defined by chaos and turmoil my prayer is that we will remember our obligations as disciples and by God’s grace be strengthened for the days ahead.

Through these times my expectations and, more importantly, God’s expectations of you have not changed. You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

You are to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). There are no exceptions. If you are white you are to love you black neighbor as yourself. If you are black you are to love you white neighbor as yourself. We all are to love our neighbors with the same love that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

As Lutherans you have a peculiar and particular obligation to follow the eighth commandment. Luther says in the Small Catechism that “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” means “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” As members of the Lutheran church you have committed to this particular way of discipleship; therefore I will hold you to it. Are you a person who struggles, or even dislikes, the Black Lives Matter movement? I will still hold you to your commitment to interpret your neighbor’s actions “in the best possible light.” Are you a person who struggles with, and dare I say dislikes, law enforcement. I will still hold you to your commitment to interpret your neighbor’s actions in “the best possible light.”

As the baptized people of God you are to live out your baptismal call. In these times you are to remember that at your baptism and/or confirmation you promised to “work for justice and peace.” Your duty is not just peace (which can be achieved by many unjust ways), but also justice for those without any.

These expectations, or if we cannot rise to that occasion than at least obligations, are your holy duty and they have not changed.

While these three things are hard in a hateful world, there is good news.

First, you are not in this alone. your holy duty is not just something for you, but for all of us (myself included). I will be struggling with all of this with you. More crucially, God will be struggling with all of this with you. Remember what Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39 – “for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” your struggle, pain, depression, and sadness are not just things for you to go through on your own. Nothing, not even current events, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Second, complaint and lament are the noble rights of the people of God. Scripture is filled with examples of God’s people complaining and lamenting at the state of the world. Far from making God angry, most often complaint and lament seem to rally God to action (Exodus 3:7). So do not attempt to keep your thoughts and feelings bottled up, but truthfully and honestly voice them in prayer. I promise you God is big enough to take it.

Third, remember that we are the people of death and resurrection. Remember that we believe that God is most fully shown to us in a common criminal that was violently tortured and executed and remember that even after entering Hell itself, Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. In our communion liturgy we frequently say “we cry out for the resurrection of lives when Christ will come again in beauty and power to share with us the great and promised feast.” This is neither idle language nor rote formula. It is the sincere and deep hope of the people of God. We cry out for the resurrection of lives amidst hate, injustice, death, and violence. Our cry, along with the whole people of God throughout all ages is “Amen! Come Lord Jesus.”

My prayer for you is that you remember what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:24: “Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.” As the people of God I pray that you remember that we are not here to win arguments, but instead show forth the love of Christ. This means that your obligation is to listen. Listen to the other person’s experience of law enforcement, justice, and life itself. Our world has forgotten how to listen. If there is one thing we can do, it is be the people who remember that a person can tell us their experience and we do not have to prove them right or wrong.

And remember what Christ says in Revelation 1:17-18 Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.” 

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

– Pastor Dave.

One comment

  1. Again, thank you Pastor Dave for your words of wisdom. May they strengthen us to be the people God has created us to be, always caring, comforting, loving and kind.

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