This past Saturday afternoon, I received an email from our Virginia Synod bishop, James Mauney, asking for synod leaders to join in an emphasis for the next day in worship. Bishop Mauney attached a letter from our ELCA presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, and another letter from Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The gist of all the communication was to invite churches across the country to stand together in a show of solidarity using the theme, "Black Lives Matter." I confess I had already finished my plans for worship and wasn't sure how to handle this request in the next morning's services.
Bishop Mauney's letter is reprinted in our January newsletter, "The Parish Voice." I encourage you to read the bishop's thoughtful reflection.
Recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island have struck a nerve in our country and have led many to speak openly of the racial tensions that envelop this nation. Because of the color of my skin, my age and my gender, I cannot walk in the shoes of the young black man who feels targeted simply because of the way he looks. What I can do is acknowledge that this nation has racial problems, deeply rooted and hurtful problems. I can acknowledge pervasive injustice in our history and in the present. I can acknowledge the ache in my heart for those who do not enjoy the same sense of freedom I do. I can agree that the church must have a prophetic voice in healing the hurts we have caused one another. And I can participate, if only in spirit, in Bishop Frencher's request of all churches: "All Pastors are asked to call all of their young men to the Altar and pray for them, covering them with the Blood of the Covenant of Jesus Christ."
It seems a small gesture, but this Sunday, I invite you to join me in praying for the young men of our nation, for aging women and small children, for middle-aged women and men, that together we might be led to lift up the beauty and worth of each child of God, asking that we might be part of the solution rather than a continuation of the problem. It would be naïve of us to pretend that racial divides do not exist in our country or our county. It would be equally naïve to pretend that there is no solution. For in God all things are possible for those who work together. May the God of hope be born in us and make of us a fountain of justice and peace in the desert of despair.
This evening we gather at the Presbyterian Church of Floyd for our third mid-week Advent meal and worship. Warm up with a bowl of soup and let your heart be warmed with the beautiful music of Holden Evening Prayer. Thanks to those who have prepared our dinner.
This Sunday is shaping up to be a busy one! We'll have our usual morning worship services, then you are invited to the Community Chorus Christmas concert at 3:00 pm at Zion. At 7:00 pm is the St. Mark Christmas program. I hope you'll be able to attend some or all of these events and feel the joy of the season.
On Christmas Eve, you and your loved ones, friends and neighbors are invited to gather at 7:00 pm at Zion for a candlelight service with Holy Communion, where we will celebrate the miracle of the holy one born among us, full of grace and truth.
"How long, dear Savior, how long
shall this bright hour delay?
Fly swifter round the wheel of time,
and bring the welcome day."
Jeremiah Ingalls, 18th century