Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The recent mass shootings in Orlando bring deep sadness to our hearts because of the lives lost, the families and friendships broken by the death of these innocent victims, and the pain and suffering that continue for those who survived the horrific hours of gunfire and madness. There is sadness too over the steady repetition of events like this.
Like you, I want to see the murder, indeed the slaughter of innocents, come to an end in America and around the world. I condemn the violence; I deplore the bloodshed.
Anger is a growing with each new mass shooting. I worry about this development and how it will work to fracture our society. It is an anger fueled by political rhetoric, a rhetoric I fear is spilling into faith conversations in an unhelpful way.
Now more than ever, the anger must be addressed for the sake of bringing peace to the soul of this nation. The current course of political affairs in the U.S. is not getting us anywhere near the place we need to be. My appeal is that we begin calling for a truce in the battle over hard social issues like firearms, immigration, and racism – a truce that will provide the opportunity to start a new conversation based on the hope for peace that we hold in common.
I cannot effect such a truce in the realm of our national political environment, but I do encourage it in the context of congregations in this synod. Members of Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod congregations are angry, perplexed, and frightened by recurring events that defy civility, diminish the value of life, and draw lines between groups and cultures. Despite the challenges that can arise, I hope congregations of this synod will take time for truce-based, faith conversations about the hard social issues. Such conversations give people a chance to define their common hope for peace and a chance to speak out with a broader message of reconciliation in their community.
The good news of God’s love in the Risen Jesus Christ, and the grace-centered teachings of the Lutheran Confessions, provide us with incredibly powerful tools for healing in our congregations and, by extension, in the communities where our congregations are located. Healing always affords an important step forward.
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug…For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places…joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
(Psalm 51:1, 2)
Peace be with you.