Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Friends in Christ:
These words from the Apostle Paul, often included in our Thanksgiving worship services, have sometimes been hard for me to receive and understand. How can we rejoice in the midst of so much suffering? Especially this week, in the wake of the news of the violent assault on our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Colorado Springs; especially this week, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, remembering the six lives lost and the countless lives impacted and wounded by that senseless act of violence; especially this week, as we note the continuing war in Ukraine and countless other situations in which violence, racism, poverty, and chaos seem to run rampant, how can we rejoice?
I need to remind myself, however, that the instructions by Paul are to “rejoice in the Lord.” We do not rejoice in the circumstances of our lives, but in the fact that God is with us in the midst of it all. In that light, I do not interpret Paul’s invitation to “make your requests known to God” as an invitation to imagine that, once we lift our prayers, our job is done. God does not, in my experience, solve our problems for us; God grants us the wisdom, courage, and strength we need to fashion the solutions together.
In that spirit, I pass along to you the words shared by Pastor Char Guiliani, chair of the synod’s Reconciling in Christ ministry team, written in response to the tragic events in Colorado Springs over the weekend:
“We ask everyone to lift up in prayer those who were directly affected by this violence, their families and loved ones. We also ask you to lift up in prayer the entire LGBTQIA+ community. When things like this occur anywhere, our community’s fear intensifies as we wonder who may be next.
No matter how we identify or whom we love, we are all God’s beloved children.
Let us pray…
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope.
Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance.
Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance.
Where distrust tests our thinking, grant healing and illumination.
Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams.
All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 76
I’m grateful to be in the struggle with all of you,
Bishop Paul Erickson