Dear Friends in Christ,
“I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message
to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house,
as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward
God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:20-21).
One does not have to turn the pages too far into the Book of Acts to notice that the Holy Spirit is up to something, and that something is the crossing of cultural, ethnic, and racial barriers. The “Way of Jesus” begins with a smattering of followers, and quickly grows into an all-encompassing movement. When Jesus is the host, there is a seat at the table for everyone. Men and women (1:13-14); devout Jews from every nation (2:5); those who are differently abled (3:2); Hellenists and Hebrews (6:1); Samaritans (8:5) and Ethiopians (9:27); Roman soldiers (10:1) and frightened jailers (16:27); not to mention a persecutor turned apostle, named Saul (8:1).
In Acts 20:21, Paul reminds the leaders of the house churches in Ephesus and the reader of the Book of Acts, that he was called by God to testify about the Crucified and Risen Jesus to both Jews and Greeks. The message of Jesus is a message of hope for all the world, and this message has the power to renew everyone and everything.
The Jesus movement will not be cramped or confined by culture, ethnicity, or race. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s promise to the world. And as followers of Jesus, we are called to participate in God’s mission to cross cultural, ethnic, and racial barriers, for the restoration and renewal of all things.
Emanuel Nine, martyrs, 2015
On June 17, 2015, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Pastors Pinckney and Simmons were both graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
A resolution to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance for the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine was adopted by the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on August 8, 2019. Congregations of the ELCA are encouraged reaffirm their commitment to repenting of the sins of racism and white supremacy which continue to plague this church, to venerate the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine, and to mark this day of penitence with study and prayer.