Dear Partners in Mission:
With heavy hearts we heard the news last week of yet another school shooting. This time 19 dead, 4th graders like my middle child, in a school in Uvalde, TX. The epidemic of mass gun violence across our country continues. Conversation about this issue, as with many others in our deeply divided communities, so very quickly devolves into minds uninterested in change and prepared statements and demonizing of any who disagree with our positions.
Last Sunday in our gospel reading from John, Jesus prayed that those who believe in him may be one, as he and the Father are one (John 17:20-26). The reality is that throughout the Christian experience the followers of Jesus have rarely been one. From the Arian controversy to the Great Schism, to our own beloved and treasured Reformation heritage, and the history of those who call themselves Lutheran, we are not and have not been one. Yet, that is what Jesus prayed for. But it is hard to be one, and it is hard to preach to a divided people.
Our pastors are preaching in divided times. Every word can be brought up as sowing division and discord. Yet we in the Lutheran tradition value our preaching and have criteria for it. And that as theologians we often ask the question, in the face of division, and violence, and death, of why? Why did this happen? Why did God allow it to happen? This is a valuable question, but it also often leaves us stuck. Perhaps, I was challenged last Sunday, we need to ask different, coaching, questions.
Instead of why perhaps we should ask “what?” and how?” What conversation do I need to have with someone to address this division this week? What is going to get in the way of this? And how can I overcome that? If we are to be one as the Father and Jesus are one, what must we be willing to give up to make that happen and how will we do so?
In these challenging times I find this challenge worthwhile. I will, as much as anyone, avoid difficult conversation if I can. It is uncomfortable and unsettling. Yet, if I am a follower of Jesus and wish to honor this prayer he prayed for you and me 2,000 years ago, this is work that must be done. As you do this work this week know you are in my prayers and that the Holy Spirit is guiding and leading you.