My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, partners in the ministry of stewarding the Good News of our Lord. Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I give thanks to God for you, for your faithfulness to the Lord, and for the tireless work you do in His name in the world. I was not intending to write an article this week as I am enjoying a week of vacation (before heading off to the ELCA Youth Gathering next week), but something happened at our synod assembly last weekend that I must share with you. I offered a prophetic voice—words of hearers, not mine. It would be unjust for you to not know what I, your pastor, said.
The role of prophetic voice is what our US Founding Fathers had in mind when they advanced the idea of Separation of Church and State. Their intention was that the government should not influence who or how people worship and that people of faith should use the principles of their faith to speak out against actions that are contrary to them, especially actions of the government. The ELCA takes this role seriously and does speak out on many issues. This past weekend in assembly, our Metro-DC Synod continued this practice.
A resolution was presented on the abuse of Palestinian children, specifically by the Israeli government. One person argued that we were not informed enough to pass such a resolution, that the children referenced in the resolution were used by Palestinians as human shields, soldiers, and suicide bombers. While she was speaking in opposition to the resolution, to me her statement highlighted its purpose. The children are “used” for purposes of war. The resolution did not condone Palestinian abuse of children, it offered a prophetic voice to our US Government to speak out against Israeli abuse of these same children once in custody. It passed by a vote of 154, yes; 22, no; and 11 abstentions.
This resolution, like so many others before it, flows from our basic Christian principle of love. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, our families, our friends; but, most importantly, he calls us to love our enemies and to pray even for those who persecute us. Over the past week, what many would consider unimaginable has been happening, we have been abusing children, ripping them away from their parents. No law can justify this and no scripture can be used to defend it. People in our own government—Republicans, Democrats, and even some in the White House—have expressed deep sadness over this. We, too, must offer a prophetic voice.
During the discussion on the Palestinian children resolution, I reminded the church of our responsibility right here at home. I cannot recall verbatim what I said, but I remember enough and feel it should be shared with you. I began by introducing myself, which we are always asked to do, and went on from there. I said,
“Albert Triolo, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Springfield. I know this is probably not germane to the conversation but I feel as though I am going to vomit if I do not speak. We could remove the word Palestinian from this resolution—I’m not suggesting we do, that’s not the point—but if we did, it would speak a different message. Lines like the resolved, “guarantee basic due process rights for children in the Israeli military court system,” or the wheras “no child shall be subject to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.” These lines catch my attention. I speak in favor of this resolution; but I must ask, are we not doing these same things within our own US borders?”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, yes, we are. You know the greatest commandments, they are the most basic of our Christian faith: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. We wouldn’t stand for anyone doing to us, our families, or our friends what we are doing to children being brought across our border. Should the parents or guardians be punished? That’s another conversation for another day; immigration reform is desperately needed in this country. But this abuse of children must stop. Enough is enough. I encourage you, no, I implore you to love your neighbor as you love yourself and reach out to our government to end this.
I look forward to seeing you in church on Sunday. I will not be preaching on this topic. My sermon will be about Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4. It is the first miracle in a series of miracles where Jesus begins to prepare his newly appointed twelve apostles by exhibiting his power over all creation. In Greek, apostles are literally
. This Gospel reading makes me wonder, how am I sent, how are you sent? Today I believe it is to offer the prophetic voice of the Gospel.
Yours in the loving communion of the Holy Trinity,
+ Pastor Albert
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) adds its voice “in opposition to the cruel separation of families.” In a statement, the NCC calls “on the United States government to reunite children with their families and to establish a humane and just system to assist those seeking asylum and refuge in our nation.”