A Pastoral Message from Bishop Zeiser
We are again confronted with horrible news (and pictures!) of death, mob violence, and bloody physical altercations as protests erupt in yet one more American city. The anger and profound social disruption in Charlottesville has deep roots in our history and is spilling into towns and cities across the U.S. Our nation faces considerable domestic unrest, while also faced with the prospect of a growing international nuclear threat.
We grow weary over the persistence of internal strife and conflict among the nations. It is vital, however, that we neither succumb to this weariness nor walk away in despair. Members of the Body of Christ are called to address the strife and conflict with boldness, confident that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
We have all we need to address the strife and conflict. First, we have the ministry and teachings of the Risen Jesus. This gospel stands in judgment of voices calling for white supremacy, spewing racist messages, promulgating fascist ideologies, and speaking belligerent threats as if massive death and destruction were inconsequential in the face of a nation’s sovereignty. The church that gathers in Jesus’ name must oppose movements stirred by such voices, and proclaim in word and deed the message of justice and peace inherent in Jesus’ voice.
Second, we have the wealth of scriptural witness to God’s intention that we do justice…love kindness, and…walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). This witness provides a deep reservoir of spiritual insight into God’s desire for the nations. The three admonitions recorded in Micah create a multi-faceted summons to which God calls us as we live day-to-day. Justice, kindness, and humility stand in stark contrast to belligerence, bigotry, and supremacy.
Third, we have places where we together and for the sake of faithfulness can explore God’s word, pray for clarity, converse about our fears and hopes, come to terms with our differences about difficult issues, and sing songs of hope and discipleship. Our church buildings can serve not only as places where our members gather in times of strife and conflict for repentance and renewal, but also as community gathering spots where those who have no safe place for communal discernment can gather.
In these days of social unrest and global conflict, God calls us in Holy Baptism to a public witness in which we care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. It is a witness that has not always been the greatest strength of Lutherans in northeastern Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are up to the challenge. I am confident that you will rise to that challenge for Jesus’ sake.
+ Bishop Samuel Zeiser