June 15, 2020
Oh, praise the gracious pow'r
that tumbles walls of fear
and gathers in one house of faith
all strangers far and near:
We praise you, Christ!
Your cross has made us one!
Oh, praise persistent truth
that opens fisted minds
and eases from their anxious clutch
the prejudice that blinds: Refrain
Oh, praise inclusive love,
encircling ev'ry race,
oblivious to gender, wealth,
to social rank or place: Refrain
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #651, verses 1-3]
The readings for Sunday, June 21, 2020, the Third Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
In this coming Sunday's Gospel lesson, Jesus continues preparing his disciples for their mission. His words are alarming, because they don't paint a very rosy picture of what the disciples are to expect. He warns them of the dangers and hardships they will encounter. Those who follow Jesus will face rejection, persecution, and yes, even death.
The history of the early church points out that, despite the dangers, many followed willingly. If you read the stories of the disciples you will learn that far too few of them lived to a ripe old age. The apostle Paul, not one of the original 12, frequently called attention to his misfortunes in his letters, four of which he wrote while imprisoned. How many of us would take those risks today?
A few days ago, I was searching for a quote on interdependence. I remembered reading something from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the interrelatedness of humanity which led me to his now illustrious, "
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I found the quote, but for nearly an additional hour or so, I sat transfixed at the computer screen, reading over and over again, this document which has been described as a "jewel of literature." I encourage anyone with eyes to read it and digest all that it states about the underlying principles for protest and civil disobedience.
Even though this is a magnificent letter, full of passion and purpose, my enthusiasm was dampened by the thought that it was written in 1963, but might just as well have been written last week. Little has changed in 57 years. Of course, blacks can now sit at lunch counters and attend distinguished institutions of higher learning; but by and large, inequality still persists. Active attempts to suppress voting rights still persist, law enforcement applies excessive means against certain segments of society. Many black and brown minorities are still gripped in the throes of frustration and despair.
In the letter, which was originally written on scraps of paper and margins of newspapers and smuggled out of his jail cell, King catalogues a litany of disappointments. But his harshest criticisms were leveled at the church - specifically, the white church. This letter, you see, was written in response to a group of
, seven Christian and one Jewish Rabbi, who characterized the demonstrations as "unwise and untimely," and appealed to King to stop, urging instead, that resolution to racial matters be pursued through the courts.
King reminded them that nine years earlier, the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision had declared school segregation illegal, yet the ruling went largely ignored by school systems in southern states.
He referred them back to the early church, and how its people were more willing to face hungry lions than submit to the laws of the Roman Empire which they considered unjust. "In those days," King wrote, "the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society."
By contrast, King continues, the church of the 60's offered "a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound...more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows."
This was 1963. We are now in 2020. How would you describe your congregation? How would you describe your own individual witness?
I mentioned last week that several pastors and congregational leaders have reached out to me in the past week asking for guidance on where to begin the conversation on white privilege and racial justice in their congregations. I was encouraged by those gestures. I made reference to the ELCA website and the page dedicated to
Racial Justice Resources
. I would also add that there are other resources listed on the Emmanuel 9 page, whose link is found in the next section.
Beginning next Monday and over the next couple of weeks, I plan to use this space to introduce other voices that can speak to these matters far more effectively than I can. This is a kairos moment in the life of the church. We cannot sit idly by and continue to perpetuate systems of injustice and oppression.
Wednesday, June 17, has been added to the ELCA Calendar of Festivals and Commemorations as a day of commemoration and repentance for the
martyrdom of the Emanuel 9
. This commemoration was adopted by the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on August 8, 2019.
On June 17, 2015, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Pastors Pinckney and Simmons were both graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Congregations of the ELCA are encouraged reaffirm their commitment to repenting of the sins of racism and white supremacy which continue to plague this church, to venerate the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine, and to mark this day of penitence with study and prayer.
An ELCA Prayer Service for Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine will be available for online viewing at 12 noon Eastern Time on June 17, the fifth anniversary of that tragic evening. The service will include leaders from around the ELCA and ecumenical partners, including episcopal leadership from the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will preach the sermon. We join in a time of repentance, mourning and prayer as we remember these nine martyrs and renounce the sins of racism and white supremacy. The service can be viewed on the ELCA website, by clicking on the link above.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
: Staff meeting
Interfaith Exchange on Immigration
Northeastern Ohio Synod Conference Deans
Meeting with ELCA Secretary re: Assembly Plans
Conference meeting with Akron-Wooster, Eastern
Cleveland Clinic Webinar: Safely Returning to Sacred Spaces
ELCA Day of Repentance
Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
Regions Six Bishops Check-in
I apparently was so eager to celebrate Father's Day that I skipped a week and remembered it last Monday. Someone politely reminded me that it's on June 21. Nevertheless, I am repeating last week's prayer for our closing prayer this week. 2020 will go down in history as the year you celebrated Father's Day twice, at least as far as Monday Musings is concerned. This
Litany of Peace for Father's Day
, is by the Rev. Jane Sommers, a United Methodist pastor. I only use a portion of it here. You can read the entire prayer by following the link.
Loving God, we lift this day our gratitude for the loving men
who have brought us the precious heart of your Father Love.
We give thanks to you this day
For those who have shown us kindness,
For those who have shown us courage,
For those who have shown us generosity,
For those who have shown us truth,
For those who have shown us compassion,
For those who have shown us faith,
For those who have shown us love.
Blessed be the name of all sons and brothers and fathers
who reveal a glimpse of your loving presence on earth.
+Bishop Abraham Allende