In the days following my election to the Office of Bishop in July 2020, I felt like a wandering, lost soul in the desert. I spent several days in prayer and quiet meandering with my thoughts, feelings, and doubts. During that time, I heard the story in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, over and over again. If you haven’t read it in a while, I invite you to open up your Bible and check it out.
The story is a conversation between Jesus and a lawyer who tries to test the Savior. Jesus’ response to this testing has served as the primary compass for my first few months as Bishop. I believe more deeply with each new day that God has placed this prophetic teaching from Jesus on my heart for more than just my first few months serving in the Office of the Bishop. And I give God thanks for that truth.
Needless to say, I intended to write something different for this week’s blog post, but Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22 called me down a different path.
Recent events unfolding before us are unlike any other…
… ongoing battles over coronavirus…
… unending killing of our fellow brothers and sisters on our city streets…
… the unimaginable movements in our own little piece of God’s creation that seem to have us spiraling out of control as a nation…
… the idolatress behavior toward any number of people and things that are in complete contradiction to following Jesus.
My heart aches.
My soul cries out.
And, yet, as the evil noise of the world seeks to overtake us, I hear Jesus say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I was thankful on the Feast of Epiphany to be invited into a time of worship and prayer at St. John Lutheran Church in Dickinson, ND. As I participated in their online community, this brief time of worship was like healing balm on a weary world and weary souls. As the Holy Spirit breathed through “A Time for Prayer,” Pastor Joe and Pastor Lisa never mentioned it, but Jesus’ words to “love your neighbor as yourself” echoed through my iPhone screen and into my very soul.
This worship service is still available and I invite you to join “A Time for Prayer” at this link:https://www.facebook.com/st.johnlutheranchurch.9/videos/874201820059883
My friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Brian Derrer of Christ the Savior Lutheran Church in Fischers, Ind., wrote a prayer of lament on Wednesday evening. With his permission, I share it today as a way for us to reflect upon Jesus’ command, regardless of how we feel about events of the past several days and months. After all, we are followers of the Savior of the world Jesus the Christ. A Savior who calls us to “love our neighbor as yourself” in all that we say and do.
May Pastor Brian’s prayer bring peace to you in these days and hope for the days that lie ahead.
“We need to lament.
How long O Lord?
How long will we turn from the way of loving our neighbors?
How long shall we choose fabricated narratives that foment hate instead of the way of truth that speaks life?
Turn us to You, O Lord.
Turn us away from violence, hate, false witness.
Help us listen well to one another, while holding fast to the way that Jesus makes known.
Have mercy on us, O Lord…
…on our nation…
…on our communities and congregations…
…on the countless fellow citizens who long for peace, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…
Turn our hearts and minds, O Lord, to You.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.