Dear Friends in Christ,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Yesterday, I was blessed to worship with the people of God at First Lutheran in Findlay. They gather every Sunday morning to worship in an inspiring sanctuary. Beautiful furnishings in the chancel. Simple wooden pews. Ornate stained glass. Majestic organ. Silence. This is holy space. Space that helps us enter into sacred time and sacred place. I know that God is in all places, at all times, but somehow this space helps me become more mindful of God’s presence.
So, I sat in a simple wooden pew before worship, and I silently prayed, and I was struck while praying that this is exactly what 50 worshipers were doing at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. This is what 11 worshipers were doing at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And this is what 9 worshipers were doing at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston. They were praying. They were worshiping. They were gathering in sacred space, where they were murdered and martyred.
In 2015, the violence at Mother Emmanuel shocked me, until I sat in her pews the following year, and listened to the interim pastor, as he tearfully recalled Mother Emmanuel’s long history and long experience with intimidation and violence. The violation of sacred space and the violent taking of sacred life has happened before, and it will happen again, and again, and again.
During this Year of Scripture, many of us are reading through the Bible. This morning we started the Book of Judges, and I know what’s coming. The Book of Judges is a violent book full of troubling and tragic tales. I’d like to skip the Book of Judges and move right into the Book of Ruth. But I can’t and I won’t.
In response to intimidation, violence, and the violation of sacred space, I will keep doing what God calls me to do. I am not afraid. I will pray. I will read Scripture with my community. I will preach and teach against the evil of violence. I will share the promise of God’s redeeming love in my words and actions. And I will continue to enter into God’s sacred space for worship and prayer, again, and again, and again. As a witness on behalf of all those who have been murdered and martyred, and as a follower of the crucified and risen Lord… the Prince of Peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
During this Year of Scripture, we will aspire to grow as Christian disciples through three distinct practices:
1. Daily Bible Reading
- March 18 Judges 1-2
- March 19 Judges 3-5
- March 20 Judges 6-7
- March 21 Judges 8-9
- March 22 Judges 10-12
- March 23 Judges 13-15
March 24 Judges 16-18
2. Bible Reflection to help us to become fluent in the language of sacred scripture. The artists at the Bible Project do a great job of bringing Scripture to life. Check out this poster on the Book of Judges. All Bible Project posters can be downloaded and shared, for free.
3. Bible Study Click here for the Sermon on the Mount Bible Studies.
4. The Northwestern Ohio Synod 2019 Book of the Year is A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible: Learning to Read Scripture’s Story. Edited by Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhaus.