Words of Encouragement from our Senior Pastor
It has been a difficult week. One week ago George Floyd died because an officer knelt on his neck while he was handcuffed, face to the ground, gasping for air, crying out “I can’t breathe.” And then his last breath left him. It was an excruciating scene. Since then we’ve experienced peaceful and helpful protests as well as violence filled with looting and destruction, including yesterday in Sioux Falls.
Throughout this week much has been written and said about what we are going through as a country. It’s hard to know what to add or say. Yet we are people of faith. We are people of God. We are people with a calling to not only know the love of Christ in our lives, but to share it in order to bless others. The Christian voice must be heard, as the gospel of Christ is always relevant to any and every situation. And Christian acts of love are to be lived out, always motivated by, and in pursuit of, the love, peace, and justice which God values so highly and to which God calls each one of us.
First of all I want to commend our city and state officials, including Mayor TenHaken and Governor Noem, for their comments, preparation, and action last night, as violence began to break out at the Empire Mall last night. I’d like also to commend and thank the police officers and the National Guard for the fine work they did yesterday and continue to do in our community and in communities across the country. And I’m thankful for the organizers and participants in the protest and march yesterday who looked for peaceful ways to allow their voices to be heard.
So how do we move forward as people of God? That’s not an easy question and there certainly are not any simple or easy answers. But let me share some of how I am trying to move forward as a Christ-Follower.
First: Pray. The Bible teaches us to pray often and always. There can never be too much prayer. Pray for peace. Pray for constructive ways to express the anger and frustration which is real. Pray for our systems to change in ways that will reflect “peace and justice for all”. Pray for yourself that your attitudes and actions will change as needed to more fully live out the call to love all of God’s people. Pray for police officers and those who serve on the front lines, who so often put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve. Pray for our President and our national, state, and locals leaders, to lead in ways that seek peaceful change. Pray for victims. Pray for those who inflict harm or look to incite rioting, that Christ will take hold of their hearts. Pray for God’s ways and God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Pray. Pray about everything.
Second: Admit there is a problem. Systemic racism is real in our country. The first step in making any lasting and substantial change is admitting there is a problem. It has existed for a long, long time. In theological terms, we say, “Yes, sin is real. The power of evil is real.” Unless we are honest about this, we won’t be able to be part of any solution.
Third: Listen. I’m working hard at this one. Listen to people who have lived a different experience than you’ve lived. Listen to people who have been marginalized. This is not easy. For me, I have lived a blessed life. I have lived as a white male, mostly in the suburbs of America. So to place myself in a situation of someone who has lived a different experience, I need to listen. I need to seek out information sources that might cause me to be uncomfortable. I need to listen and to learn. And as I listen, I need to give up the temptation to speak too quickly and to give my pat answer to problems I don’t fully understand. Too often we make justifications that make ourselves feel better that allow us to move on without really listening. And without really learning. These days, take time to really listen. Again, I’m working hard at this one because it’s not easy.
Fourth: Work for change. Protest. But do it peacefully. We are part of a Christian heritage that was born out of protest. The Lutheran Church has its very roots in the “Protest – ant” Reformation. Luther protested when he saw abuse being done in the name of God. Protest is not wrong. We can and should stand up against racism, or against anything that goes against God’s will for our world. Speak and act in ways that are helpful. Yet, in the spirit of Jesus, we cannot let violence be the answer to violence. Destroying businesses. Looting stores. Setting cars on fire. Putting more lives at risk. This is not the answer. Work for peaceful change in Jesus’ name.
Fifth: Continue to build friendships. Loving community is built from the ground up, one friendship at a time. Reach out to people with acts of kindness and love. Love can spread just as quickly as hate. And we know that because of Jesus, love wins and true and abundant life win. The devil tries to separate. Christ unites. Continue to build friendships. And do it, as the Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches, even with those who may look or think differently than you.
Yes, it’s a challenging time. Yet Jesus equips us even as he walks with us to be salt and light in the midst of a world that needs so desperately to be flavored with Christ’s love, peace, and justice.
I find it interesting that yesterday we celebrated the festival of Pentecost. God’s Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus Christ, was set loose in the world. People began speaking together using all the varied languages of the world. God was saying and continues to say that diversity is a blessing. God created and loves all people and all races. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is meant for all. And in the midst of these troubled times, God’s Spirit is working. I see so much of God’s goodness being reflected as people reach out in love to one another, working for peaceful change.
May God bless you as you move forward as a child of God, one chosen, equipped, and called to be a follower of Jesus. We are all needed to help bring about the unity for which Jesus prayed so fervently. He died and was raised to bring about life, abundant life, for all. Our hope is centered always on Jesus Christ and his ways.
One final note. I’m using Romans chapter 12 as a road-map for how to live and act as a Christian. I commend it to you.
Together in Christ,
I too Pastor Tim struggling with all such goings on. Covid 19 and now the ugliness of violence. Pray Pray and Pray. We all must continue..prayer and believe God hears us and as Romans 8:28 God works for the good of those who Love Him. Believe Believe Believe