A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

Every now and again, a picture I post on my Facebook page seems to connect with people. Most often, I post pictures of a congregation or ministry I have visited, or the world’s cutest grandchildren, or a day in Star Trek history (well, maybe only a few connect with these), or, as in a post from a few days ago, something about our current political environment. But one picture has drawn more “likes” and “comments” than ANY other picture I have posted. It is the one at the top of this article, a post from March of 2019. The picture was taken when I went to Paradise to visit Paradise Lutheran and survey the damage that had been caused the previous November by the Camp Fire.

It wasn’t anything I planned – I just happened to notice this small grouping of Daffodils emerging from a burned out patch of ground while I was driving past mile after mile after mile of devastation. As far as one could see, there was nothing but destruction everywhere – homes burned to the ground, charred vehicles and playground sets, businesses with only their signs left standing, trees that were nothing more than burned out stumps. It was heart-wrenching. And then — in the midst of what seemed to be that endless vista of a completely hopeless situation — a glimpse of hope. A small patch of daffodils. I needed to see that, and apparently, from the response the picture received, more than a few people did too.

If the images of Paradise after the Camp Fire two years ago have faded from your mind, this year’s fires in California and Oregon will serve as stark reminders. In the past three weeks, several towns have been completely wiped out by fire. Pictures of fire damage in our synod’s territory and from Oregon have elicited PTSD responses in some who have been through such fires before. In Oregon, the towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix and Talent have been leveled by flame. In California, the towns of Berry Creek, Brush Creek, and Ferry Falls are virtually gone. In other places, like Vacaville and the Santa Cruz Mountains, whole neighborhoods have been destroyed. Our prayers and our financial support are vitally needed to help the people of these towns in their recovery. You can donate to the SPS fund for 2020 Fires and/or Lutheran Disaster Response here.

In the first few weeks of this 2020 Fire Season:

+ Dozens of people have lost their lives.

+ Tens of thousands have been evacuated and thousands have lost their homes.

+ Nearly 20,000 firefighters have been deployed.

+ 3.5 million acres have burned in California, nearly double the amount of acreage of any previous fire season.

And it’s only the middle of September. All this is happening:

+ In the midst of the COVID pandemic, now in its sixth month, with 200,000 lives lost in our country alone.

+ In the midst of weeks of record breaking heat.

+ In the midst of continuing racial injustice and violence against Black people by the police.

+ In the midst of voter suppression and concerns about how our votes will be counted.

+ In the midst of what portends to be an especially contentious election season.

+ In the midst of… what next, God?

It’s OK, in fact it’s spiritually healthy to question where and how God might be seen in this time. It’s important to keep our eyes open for glimmers of hope. 20,000 firefighters working for weeks on end to protect lives give me hope. Relief and recovery workers, now just beginning their work, give me hope. Grocery clerks and sanitation workers and postal workers and medical workers give me hope. Seeing Debbi reading on Zoom with our grandchildren gives me hope. Seeing people wearing masks gives me hope. You, the members and friends of the congregations of our Sierra Pacific Synod, reaching out to those in need, give me hope. Thank you.

And who knows? Maybe, on a good day, perhaps we have been the hope that someone needed to see in the world. Maybe we have been a reflection of Christ for someone who was just about convinced God was nowhere to be found. Maybe we have been a “patch of Daffodils” that spoke a truth that is at the heart of our witness – that even in death, new life is yet to come. God loves and redeems this world through the presence of Christ — the presence of Christ we are called to be every day. God shows up when we, aware of how God has loved and blessed us, become that vision of hope for others. We do that by thanking essential workers for the risks they take every day by serving their community. We do that by reaching out to those who are sheltering in place to tend to their needs for companionship or to run errands for them. We do that by using our hands to do God’s work even and especially in the most challenging of times. And if someone asks you what is causing you to have hope, to show up, to make a difference, maybe you could just tell them this — “Jesus loves us. The end.”

Bp. Mark


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