At the OWL’s (Older Wiser Lutheran) Christmas party held on 12/3, Pastor Wengert shared her reflections:
“We’re celebrating an early Christmas party today – not unlike folks celebrated in San Bernadino yesterday. So I felt I should say a few things as your pastor – in order to offer a possible way to understand and deal with yet another unexpected tragedy in our world & nation. I told Tim (my husband) that I don’t quite know what to say… but here’s my best attempt. Don’t worry – it’s a little shorter than a sermon 🙂
First something practical – then something theological.
- When tragedy happens like this – trustworthy information unfolds over time. However, there’s a natural desire to immediately try to understand – but the nature of chaos means that it takes time for credible information to be confirmed.
- We human beings aren’t known for making the best analysis or decisions when we’re frightened & defensive & angry.
- Because of possible defensiveness & anger, I think we need to be reminded that God created, cares for & sustains all neighbors – all human beings – not just particular people (not just Christians). It doesn’t make sense to completely disregard the 8th commandment (putting the best construction on what your neighbor does & says) in order to keep the 5th (you shall not murder).
- I wonder if people are trying to figure out what they can do. It’s very difficult to live with this feeling of helplessness – especially when you don’t know what’s coming next. What can we do? Call on government to respond in the ways we think are wisest. And we will probably have different opinions on what’s wisest. The reason to call on government is because Lutherans understand government to be the tool through which God works to serve & protect all human beings – through structures that provide justice & safety, and that restrain evil & destruction. So that’s the most critical way to act – calling on government to act in the ways we think wisest to restrain violence (and also supporting & being held accountable by government; that is, by God working through justice).
- Finally, a word of comfort for Christians: The one around whom we gather today – doesn’t leave us alone to face times of fear & worry. Christ brings us gifts:
- The gift of love – we are a community of forgiven sinners – brothers & sisters to support each other in times of trial.
- The gift of hope – that violence, hate and fear will not have the last word. God will be the final judge. And by the cross we know all that will be left standing in the next world is love, mercy & forgiveness. With this hope, we pray – for government, for grievers, and for our own protection (and, Jesus instructs, even for our enemies).
- most importantly, the gift of faith (trust) in the one who created us. For… as Paul wrote: Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)
That’s the Christmas message & what we celebrate today – that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not violence. Not terrorism. Not fear. Nothing. So, in a few minutes – we should sing our Christmas carols loudly – especially today.”