“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Luke 13
+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
I am shocked, upset and saddened at the events at the US Capitol on Wednesday. I think we all will need time to process and work through our feelings and thoughts about what has happened leading up to, at the Capitol and since the Capitol was broken into. For now, I know I am grieving as many of you are grieving. I mourn what has happened this week in Washington DC and the deeper forces that have been driving us to this moment in our shared history.
The events made me think of my teacher Reinhold Niebuhr. I have read many things he wrote that fit this moment. Early in his career he believed we are more likely to sin in our lives when we are in groups. That position becomes more nuanced as he lived further beyond WW I and WW II. “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint; therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.” -Reinhold Niebuhr
Wednesday afternoon and on into the evening, every hour I would turn on the news and take a gulp of troubling news and then an hour later gulp more troubling news while trying to do other work. There are times when saying something right away is helpful. There are other times when taking some time to process things is wise. Each of our pastors and lay people have their own natures and contexts. May God bless you as you speak in your own pace and work through your anger, feelings, thoughts, grief, and fears. I invite you to join me in praying that this might be the bottom for our society and that we might be able to find ways to move forward out of this sadness towards “a better union.”
This is a prayer I love. I have loved it more with each crisis of the past year.
“O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.” – ELW
As I pray and think today, including early this morning when I woke up at 4 a.m., in what I call the “Bishop’s Hour”, I keep hearing the word the word “repent,” which means “turn around.”
What does repentance look like in a situation like this? I need to pray and stew for some time about that. What comes to mind for you? Here are some ways to turn around that have come to mind quickly.
I keep thinking about this teaching of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Luke 5 – NRSV
I found myself thinking about Luther’s Small Catechism, particularly about the commandments and the petitions. Which parts come to mind for you? I hope to come back to talk about some of these in greater depth in the days ahead.
-I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other Gods.
How have we let idols take over the center of our life?
-You shall not use the name of the Lord Your God in vain.
-Honor your father and mother.
How are we called to respect and reform the traditions of our parents?
-You shall not kill.
Words kill. Words can lead to violence. How could God call us to use words to name things that need to be challenged and to be wise stewards of the words we speak?
-You shall not steal.
-You Shall not bear false witness.
-You shall not covet.
Petitions in the Lord’s Prayer
-Thy kingdom come.
-Thy will be done.
-Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.
Repentance means wrestling and living with our questions. The questions call us toward repentance. What does justice look like in a situation like this?
-How do we begin to heal?
-Is it by pretending nothing serious happened?
-What are the appropriate consequences for the behavior we have been living with?
-How do we find greater shared vision and focus on building a better future for the flourishing of all people?
“Eternal God, amid all the turmoil and changes of the world your love is steadfast and your strength never fails. In this time of danger and trouble, be to us a sure guardian and rock of defense. Guide the leaders of our nation with your wisdom, comfort those in distress, and grant us courage and hope to face the future; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.” – ELW
There is a message that our church body published that you may want to read. It will help you think about our relationship to government as Christians. We believe God works through the lives of people who serve in government. “Lutherans care about government because it is a gift from God intended for the safety and flourishing of human life.” -A Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy
We need to do our own work thinking about and responding to this insurrection. It is easy to think about and focus on other people’s behavior. We need to do our own work and process our feelings and thoughts, so that we can engage one another fruitfully and we can live our calling to be disciples of Jesus who are citizens. We will also have to find ways to do our work together about these events of the past year.
All this happened on Epiphany. The light of Christ will guide us through this we trust.
“Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star. Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands, and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” – ELW Epiphany