“The church proclaims Christ, confident this good news sets at liberty those captive behind walls of hostility.” (cf. Luke 4:18) – Bishop Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has called for a day of repentance and mourning on Sunday, June 28, in response to the tragic shooting in Charleston, S.C. Two of those who died were educated and served alongside ELCA seminary graduates – some right here in Richmond. The shooter was an ELCA member, baptized and confirmed. Beyond this, this violent incident hits too close to home on many human levels.
We have already spoken about racial reconciliation and our call to resist violence and injustice in our Sunday school classes and Bible studies. [Some resources remain available on our website’s “Update” page.] This ongoing issue in our fallen world has been extensively preached about and discussed. We have prayed together for God’s justice and peace. We have sought to welcome all without hesitation or fear. We have worked together for equality and justice. As a community and individually, we must continue to do so.
Please spend some time in remembrance and reflection this day. Confessing our communal and individual sin, in what we have done and what we have failed to do, we ask God’s forgiveness. Remember the victims and all those hurt by racism and violence. We ask you to pray for our brothers and sisters of Emanuel AME Church and all those who mourn, especially the families and friends of the nine shooting victims: State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Doctor, 49. Please also lift up in prayer the people and pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran (Columbia, SC). As difficult as it may be, please fulfill our Lord’s command to pray for our enemies, including the shooter, Dylan Roofe, and all those under the active spell of the sin we call racism and hate.
We are Christians, one body in Christ; called to be agents of reconciliation and peace, healers in a wounded world. We suffer when any member suffers and rejoice as they rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). Wherever we stand in politics, our love of Southern traditions or hot button issues, let us commit to love one another. Let us continue to be gentle and compassionate as we listen to one another and share of our own experiences and in that of our neighbors. We are called to be one as we prepare ourselves and the world for Christ’s return. Thus despite imagined or real threats or any discomfort, we will raise our voices in supplication, hope, and confidence, “Come, Lord Jesus!” and seek to walk arm in arm with all our brothers and sisters into a future full of hope where reconciliation and peace will be achieved.
As we wait, Peter exhorts each of us, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
Christ’s peace be with you always,
This post originally appeared as an email and social media post to the congregation at Messiah Lutheran Church and School.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.