A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud
by Kathye Hamm
“First of all, I urge that prayers be offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions, and thanksgivings and especially for rulers and those in authority, so that we live godly and reverent lives in peace and quiet.”
1 Timothy 2:1-2 (The Inclusive Bible)
In 1974, when I was a senior in high school, I took a class in American Government, a requirement for graduation. But during that class, we never cracked a book that explained how our country was founded, how the three branches of the Federal Government were meant to be a series of checks and balances for each other or what the principles of democracy are. Instead, we sat at our desks and watched the Watergate hearings, day after day, week after week. Our teacher said we would learn more about our government by watching these hearings than any lesson we could get out of a book. He may have been right, but I sometimes wonder if I missed an opportunity that year.
In the last few weeks, as talk of possible impeachment grows more fervent every day, I’m getting a feeling of Deja vous. It reminds me of my senior year when people seemed to be at odds with each other over whether President Nixon should resign or be impeached. By the time I entered the U.S. Navy in August of that year, our country had a new Commander-in-Chief. Forty-five years later, it seems our country is once again growing more and more divided by the rhetoric of people who hold strong beliefs and don’t seem to be able to hear or respect or engage civilly with those who hold other opinions. In the past few years, political rancor has deepened to the point where some wonder if our divisions can ever be overcome. I confess there have been times when I have contributed to that division through postings on my personal Facebook page. I’m praying and searching for a better way for all of us to agree and to disagree.
Recently, when I was visiting one of the congregations of our synod, I was asked, “As a Christian, how do I talk to people who also say they are Christian but hold such different opinions and beliefs than mine? How do I help them see that my faith in Jesus informs me to think about immigration, or racism and white privilege, or sexuality from the perspective of the encouragement Christ offered to us to welcome all, even as they are telling me their faith in Christ leads them to very different understandings than mine?” It’s a good question, and one that I pray would lead us in the church to have such conversations in a very different way than what is happening in the larger community. I offered the following quote from a pastor in Minnesota who wrote the following as a part of a devotional that I read every morning:
“The church is political, but not partisan. We pray fervently for God’s will to be done regardless of which political party is in power. Our prayers for those we disagree with, as well as for those we support, change our hearts to see our leaders and political rivals as fellow members of God’s family. Our prayers for our rivals help us humbly acknowledge that we are not better or more right than others, but that we are all God’s beloved and can show the gospel together through our loving, prophetic actions in the political realm.”
I continue to ponder these words as a pastor, a bishop, a citizen, a veteran, and a grandfather who holds out a hope that my eight grandchildren will be able to grow up in a country that is united in its aspirations that all might live in a just society where each person has access to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I suspect that in the coming days and weeks, and into the election process in November of next year, the fabric of our nation’s unity will be sorely tested even more. My hope and prayer is that we, as followers of Jesus, will be able to find a way to seek and embody truth, justice and peace in the hard conversations that are before us. I invite you to join me, each morning, as I pray the prayer that is found in our newsletter each week, a prayer from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Prayer Book for the Armed Services that is an answer to the call of 1 Timothy to pray for our leaders:
“Almighty and Everlasting God, guide the president of the United States, her/his cabinet and counselors, and all in authority over our nation, that they may be just in purpose, wise in counsel, unwavering in duty. In the administration of their solemn responsibilities, may they uphold the honor of our nation and secure the welfare and protection of all people. Holy Trinity, you show us the splendor of diversity and the beauty of unity in your own divine life. Make us, who come from many nations with many languages, a united people who delight in your many different gifts. Give those whom we have entrusted with authority the Spirit of Wisdom, that there may be peace and justice throughout our land. God, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen”
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