Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Our Alaska Lutheran Church Workers’ Conference in mid-October focused on “lament.” We talked about areas in our lives personally, and in the life of God’s Church, that we need to grieve the evils of the day. We talked specifically about social justice issues in this conference. The presenter led us to consider, as we look at the evil in the world around us, where we fit in as part of the problem or problems of our world? We asked, “Where do we need to confess, repent, and seek to receive and share the grace God gives in Jesus?”
I remember going to a Tuesday night men’s Bible Study in April of 1999 and learning with shock of the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Those of us gathered for this study were is disbelief that someone could perform such an act of violence and evil in a high school. We were in grief over the loss of lives. We were at a loss for how to respond, other than to go to the Lord in prayer and ask His mercy and His help.
I share these two random thoughts because, where this shooting at Columbine seemed unbelievable, last week we had two incidents of domestic terrorism and violence from individual citizens in our country. Just a week ago we were hearing on the news about bombs being delivered to at least 10 leaders in the circles of the Democratic Party. The man sending the bombs seems to have been caught and arrested. Thankfully no one was hurt in this specific incident. But, unfortunately such news is no longer a shock – it seems commonplace.
Then, on Saturday, October 27, at Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburg, PA, area, a man attacked people during a worship service, killing 11 and wounding seven others. Our whole country grieves. And, unfortunately, this is not the only recent shooting in a place of worship.
Have you asked yourself, “What is happening in our country? Why are there so many deadly acts of mass violence? How is it that such horrible evil seem to have become commonplace in America?”
As I listen to those discussing these issues, I hear a lot of blame being placed, usually on other people. I hear those people of a liberal political persuasion blame conservatives and their leaders. I hear conservative people blame those whose politics lean to the left, and also blame their leaders. I also hear people of faith involved in such blaming. Unfortunately, there is enough blame to go around for everyone, every one of us.
As I grow older in years, and as I realize more and more how little I know personally, the book of Psalms has become a treasure to me. The struggle, the prayers, the confessions, and the hope I find in Psalms speak to my own journey of faith as a child of God. In the midst of these two national tragedies, and in this time of rampant mass violence, I share with you Psalm 130, and hope that it may speak to you as you deal with the questions above.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than
watchmen wait for the morning.
7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
When we look at these national acts of shame, as people are blaming each other, I personally know the truth of Psalm 130, verse 3, If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
I also know that our only hope in this country is not found in our own wisdom, or the wisdom of a particular political party. Our only hope is in God’s grace and forgiveness, which the Psalmist proclaims in verse 4. But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
So, my first response to these tragic crimes is to turn to my Lord. I will trust in His wisdom, His grace, and His love. I will trust for His grace eternally, but also His intervening grace in this life. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
As I watch these tragedies unfold, I turn to my Lord, to His forgiveness, to His redemption. I don’t have the answers to why this is happening. I do believe that if people turned to the Lord in repentance, seeking His love and grace so that we could love one another, that our country and all of us would be much better off. Lord, have mercy!
A Child of God, Grieving over the Common-Place Violence in our Country,
P.S. Here are some pictures from the 2018 St. John Fall Festival Saturday, October 27. Do the adults look like they’re having as much fun as the kids?????! -
P.P.S. Here are pictures from confirmation games and snacks, last Wednesday, 10-24-2018 -
P.P.P.S. Here are some pictures of the snow we received Sunday and Monday as seen from my house. https://photos.app.goo.gl/kjzWFVGtjEo5CV4j8
P.P.P.P.S. PERSONAL DEVOTIONS FOR 2019-2020? I am encouraging you to join me in studying God’s Word together by using the same devotional Bible I plan to use in the next two years. I will use the “Today’s Light Devotional Bible” from Concordia Publishing House (our church’s publishing house) in 2019 and 2020. If you want to buy one of these Bibles and study with me starting in January here are links for the Bible.
· From CPH for $26.39 + $7.00 shipping -
· From Amazon for $32.99 + free shipping -
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.