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Pr. Mary's Pen-Summer 2016

Summer 2016 Pastor’s Pen

Dear Holy Trinity family,

The signboard on Holy Trinity’s front lawn is our public face.  The steeple proclaims “church” and the sign tells the world what kind of church we are.  This means more than the label “Lutheran”; it is also about dearly held beliefs and holy practices.  After the shootings in Orlando we proclaimed:

WE ARE ALL

MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE.

NO EXCEPTIONS

Like our Quaker brothers and sisters, we affirm the presence of God in all God’s children; we see the scintilla, the spark of God-light, in all.  We welcome people of all sexual orientations.  We recognize each other as fellow members of the Body of Christ, dependent on God’s mercy and interdependent upon each other as we live the life of faith.  We embrace the “gifts given” by all who worship with us and serve among us.  We condemn violence against gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and vehemently disagree when “Christians” (especially Christian leaders) pronounce tragedy (e.g. AIDS in the 80’s, 9/11 in 2001, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Orlando in 2016) as God’s judgment. .    

In the aftermath of recent shootings of 2 black men in Minnesota and Louisiana and of 5 police officers in Dallas, our signboard affirms:

BLACK LIVES COUNT

BLUE LIVES COUNT

ALL LIVES COUNT

GENESIS 1:27

And how about this?

 Jesus Christ died for the members of one race: the human race.

The Holy Spirit, when we are receptive, keeps bringing us back to our common humanity, our common fatal ailment (sin), and the antidote (our baptismal sharing in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ).  The theological “given” is that we are all sinners.  Otherwise, why would we need a Savior??  St. Paul famously said, “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  That includes innocent victims, convicted murderers, the police, the justly or unjustly pursued, heterosexuals, homosexuals, blacks, whites, Christians, Jews, Muslims and everyone else on the planet.

Public discourse has become brutal.  In this “no holds barred” political environment, as we anticipate both the Republican convention in Cleveland and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, let us pray for our nation, its leaders and ourselves.  May our faith shape our convictions and guide us in the ballot box when the time comes.  May we cherish, thank God for, and act upon our freedom to cast a vote in these United States of America.

Abraham Lincoln, so often reviled in his own lifetime, was a man of eloquence, poignancy, practicality, courage, self-deprecating humor and great wisdom.  He didn’t participate in any particular church, yet was a man of deep faith.  Politicians often quote him (especially recently: “a house divided cannot stand” – a verse he borrowed from the Bible!  Mark 3:25).  We would do well to remember a Lincoln vignette from a cocktail party after a Union victory.  It goes something like this: a preacher approached him, gushing, “Mr. President, isn’t it wonderful that God is on our side??”  Mr. Lincoln responded,  “Reverend, my greater concern is whether we are on God’s side.”

In all things, may we ask God’s grace, the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, to discern what the Gospel requires and, therefore, what God desires.  May we acknowledge how limited our understanding is, how near-sighted our vision, how self-serving our priorities, how imperfect our service. 

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled.  My Lord, fill it.

I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.

I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether.  O Lord, help me.

Strengthen my faith and trust in you.

In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.

I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.

I am a sinner; you are upright.

With me, there is abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.

Therefore I will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I cannot give.  Amen  (A Prayer of Martin Luther, ELW, p. 87)

In Christ, the head of the Body,

Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham