July 7, 2005

Today we awoke to the news of bombings in London. I am writing out of mourning for the victims who have died, and those who were injured, for their families, and the people of London. I ask your prayers for all of them. I find myself bewildered and saddened by such violence, rather than angry, and so I ask your prayers as well for those who perpetrated this violence, to pray in the truest sense of praying for one’s enemies. I also ask your prayers for the leaders of the G8 summit, who will continue their work in spite of this violence.

Recently the ELCA published a timely statement called “Living in a Time of Terrorism.” I am heartened by this statement, for it places our response to terrorism squarely in the context of our faith, and asks us to think and talk about this reality in our lives. It asks us to think ethically about our response, but also to take heart from the hope and sturdy courage faith offers in a time of violence and uncertainty. We can order copies from the ELCA if you would like to have the publication. However, you can also read it online. If you would like to read the full text, it may be found at this website: http://www.elca.org/socialstatements/terrorism

Below is an excerpt from the document itself centering on actions we can take in our communities to build friendships and understanding between people and cultures who do not share the same religious beliefs, or cultural practices. We are not all the same, yet there is ground we share.

“Our times bid us to intensify our efforts to work with humility and persistence for mutual understanding among all religions, especially among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This challenge has many dimensions and is only at a beginning stage. It includes personal relationships in neighborhoods, schools, and work places; meetings among congregations, mosques, and synagogues; cooperation with common projects; and scholarly discussions of sacred texts, historical relationships, and living beliefs and practices. It calls for recognizing the great diversity within each religion and for understanding friendly and hostile encounters in multiple contexts.”

The ELCA published the statement to encourage us to talk about terrorism as a community, and to think together what a faithful, peacemaking response to it we can make, as individuals, and as communities. One of the reasons I appreciate being Lutheran is this kind of invitation, that we be in conversation with each other, even in our deepest disagreements, that we continue to talk, and to listen deeply. One of my professors once said, “We Lutherans can talk to anybody.” And it’s true. Because Christian faith calls us to a sacramental listening to our neighbor. I hope you will read the statement on terrorism. If nothing else, it helps to ponder the realities of our times, in the framework of faith in a gracious God.

OF WHALES and PHALAROPES: As far as other sorts of beachcombing, in May, there was a terrific storm if you remember, and birdwatchers in eastern Massachusetts had a windfall, literally, of birds blown in by the storm, toward shore. Some of our intrepid parishioners went out in the worst of it to watch red phalaropes, Wilson’s storm petrels, and Leach’s storm petrels swim in and out of the crashing waves off Folly Point. In Plum Cove, the phalaropes came all the way into shore, spinning in the shallows, and pecking through mounds of kelp and sea wrack. A wonderful three days, if you like a good storm off the coast.

In June, Michael and I sighted two humpback whales off of Folly Point; one swam in towards the Cove, in a leisurely way, and all the diners eating outside at the Lobster Pool stood up in wonder to watch the whales’ graceful dives. The sun set over the bay as they swam in and out, and finally back toward open sea. I was wondering what sort of parable Jesus would have taught if he had used whales. They do appear in the bible, in Job and the Psalms, of course, as “leviathan.” There was Jonah’s unfortunate adventure inside the whale, and we all must have wondered what sort of whale it was, a great blue? a humpback? a Moby Dick sort of whale? In the first story of Creation, in Genesis 1:1-2:4, the King James Version speaks of God creating whales, so they have an early appearance in our sacred histories. Michael produced a beautiful presentation for the Synod Assembly offering power point images based on that creation story, and one, of course, was a humpback whale. We hope to show it at the church this summer, sometime, after all the work on the floor downstairs is finished.

In late June I finished an eight week course at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. It was a program designed to provide people with practices to reduce harmful stress in their lives. I used some of my continuing education hours to take the class with another local pastor. We found ourselves delighted by the program, and came away renewed. For those of you interested in hearing more, please email me, or go to the website of the program: www.umassmed.edu/cfm.

On a sadder note, faith communities on Cape Ann are taking note of the continued violence in Dafur, and the genocide there. I urge you to read about this, if you have not already, in the news, and on-line. The Lutheran World Relief is in the thick of providing assistance, along with other faith based and NGO organizations. Below is a link to read more about this, and to offer financial support for relief efforts, as well as suggestions for writing letters to Congress and the President. www.lwr.org

On October 15, the Synod is offering Rooted for Life, an annual day of workshops and worship for lay and clergy. This year, the focus will be on faith development through the lifespan, and our speaker is a nationally known reseracher, Roland Martinson, who focuses on exploring the faith of young people, and the factors that sustain their faith journeys. I will be giving a workshop on Evangelism, something we are always thinking about at St. Paul. In preparation for it, I would like to gather five or six people who would help me think through the format of such a workshop, and who would be willing to try some of the exercises and suggstions I hope to teach. If you are interested, please email me at the church, or call the church office.

Beachcombing: April, 2005

This is the newest addition to our website–a Blog, which means, I’m told, a web log. One of my pastor friends told me about the software, and our trusty webmaster found it on-line and installed it for our use on the website, for which we offer him our heartfelt thanks. Most pastors use web logs–Blogs–to offer weekly columns or comments in between newsletter publications. This blog will be a series of reflections, or comments, written over the course of a month. And in keeping with our proximity to the sea, I’m calling it “Beachcombing,” since some days, when you walk on the beach, you find interesting things, and other days, the waves have swept everything away. I hope readers will find it useful.

I’ve been studying a book on evangelism, “A Story Worth Sharing,” recently published by Augsburg (a Lutheran publishing house) and edited by a Lutheran pastor, Kelly Fryer. I’ll be using the book for a N.E. Synod Rooted for Life workshop on evangelism on October 15th, in Worcester. The first essay in the book looks into the way we Christians tell the story of our faith, and how our individual stories are embedded in the larger story of Jesus’ life and mission. As I understand it, evangelism is telling that wonderful story of God’s love for all of us, as we see it in the life and ministry of Jesus, and also as we experience it in our daily lives as Christ’s disciples. At the beginning of each chapter in “A Story Worth Sharing,” the individual authors of the essays write a brief column called: “Who I am in Christ,” just two paragraphs, with information about themselves, and why they do what they do, and how they see themselves as Christians. That’s my question for whomever is reading these musings on this amazing April morning. Who are you in Christ? But to take it further, what is God up to in your life, in your community’s life? What is God up to in the world today as you see it? What do you have in Christ, and what do you know about this risen life that’s a story worth sharing?