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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 8:38-39
Hurricane Harvey, one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in years, made landfall last night, threatening millions of our neighbors in Texas and Louisiana with heavy rain, wind and rising tides.
The National Hurricane Center called the storm's effects "life-threatening, devastating and catastrophic" and predicted long periods of rain and flooding, along with massive power outages. While many have evacuated, significant damage is still expected, and thousands of people may be housed in shelters for extended periods of time.
We have an opportunity to accompany our neighbors during and after this disaster, in Jesus Christ's name.
While the storm is not over, you can help now. Gifts designated for "Hurricane Response - United States" will be used in full until the response is complete to help disaster survivors recover and rebuild.
Stay connected to the latest events and our response to this and other disasters through our Facebook page. Join me in prayer and partnership, and use this bulletin insert in your congregation to help spread the word. You can find additional resources for worship here.
The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
From Persecution To Witness By Elizabeth Eaton,
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
For many months now people have been asking for some kind of statement about the persecution of Christians around the world. It seems to be a straight-forward issue. Christians are suffering in Iraq and Syria, in Nigeria and Egypt. Palestinian Christians encounter intense pressure. Christians in some parts of India are threatened. Some would even claim that U.S. Christians are under siege. Atrocities committed against Christians by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and others are regularly in the news. We hear that more Christians have been martyred in recent years than in the first three centuries of the Christian movement.
Each circumstance of violence against Christians is deeply painful. There are brothers and sisters around the world whose lives are part of the passion of Christ. People are targeted in some countries because they are Christians. But this is a complex issue. Are Christians suffering and dying as witnesses to the faith? Yes. But in many places interreligious conflict has been used as a calculated pretext for political gain. A narrative of religion vs. religion, or religion vs. society, is an effective way of generating support for one’s cause. And, regrettably, suspicion and fear of the “other” leads to intolerance and discrimination.
The persecution of Christians is not new. Martyrs have existed since the beginning of the
church. Stephen was martyred with the consent of Paul, who was martyred by the Roman
Empire. Paul quoted the psalms, writing: “For your sake we are being killed all the day
long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36).
Outrage is a natural reaction to beheadings and crucifixions. The instinct to strike back is understandable. Many Lutherans accept that in a broken world deadly force might be needed. Revenge, however, is not an option for a Christian.
I pray that none of you ever suffers violence for the faith, but every generation has faced hostility. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “To endure the cross is not a tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
“Martyr” is a Greek word that means “witness,” “to give testimony.” A witness can also be a symbol that testifies a promised action has been accomplished. When we speak about the persecution of Christians, the real question is: “What will be our witness?”
Here is a story about how some Lutherans in Ethiopia answered that question. It happened in one of our companion synods. Some Muslims burned down a church, thinking they were attacking Roman Catholics. Instead, they burned down a Lutheran church by mistake. They were arrested and sent to jail. In that region it’s the responsibility of families to take care of prisoners’ hygiene and food. Instead, members of the Lutheran church asked authorities if they could dig the prisoners’ latrines and feed them. That was their witness in the face of persecution.
Christians aren’t the only ones being targeted and persecuted. More Muslims have reportedly been killed by the Islamic State than any other group. Our witness must be as peacemakers and as defenders of religious minorities in our country and around the world. We must be the ones who speak out when entire religions are falsely characterized by the actions of extremists. We would not accept Christianity being defined by the Ku Klux Klan or the Christian Identity movement. We should not define entire communities by the distortion of to their religion.
The cross is God’s visual symbol that a promised action has been accomplished. It is God’s stake in the sand. It is God’s witness to the truth that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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 8:37-39).
I am very disappointed and disturbed by the remarks that President Donald Trump is reported to have said yesterday – and confirmed by others who were present – in the context of a discussion about immigration.
Regardless of the context, references of that kind have no place in our civil discourse and, if true, reflect racist attitudes unbecoming any of us, but especially a president of the United States.
Instead, we should be fostering a world where each of us sees every person – regardless of race, origin, ethnicity, gender or economic status – in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of dignity and respect. Our church has relationships and partnerships with Christians and others on six continents. These are our sisters and brothers. We strive to accompany them and they us, across boundaries and cognizant of our diversity, yet all seeking the common good. In working for a healed, reconciled and just world, we all should faithfully strive to participate in God's reconciling work, which prioritizes disenfranchised, vulnerable and displaced people in our communities and the world, bearing witness – each of us – to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
"We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization" —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In her Christmas
message, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), reminds us that Advent is a time to be
present and still, to be aware of the promise to come.
CHICAGO – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued the following statement in response to the decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
December 6, 2017
I am deeply disturbed to learn of the Trump administration's plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The ELCA has long held the view that a negotiated, final status agreement, including a "shared Jerusalem," must be reached without unilateral actions by any party that would prejudice the outcome of negotiations.
This unilateral action would not support the cause of peace and a two-state solution, but rather would unnecessarily create further tensions and possible violence that would make efforts to bring them back together for talks much more difficult. As my brother in Christ and colleague, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, has often said, the security of Israelis depends on the freedom of Palestinians and the freedom of Palestinians depends on the security of Israelis. This proposed action would make both more insecure.
To proceed with this plan will only further isolate our nation from the global movement for a just peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike in the region and our church's policy that seeks an end to the occupation, an end to terrorism and violence, and, ultimately, the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. Since the announcement is one of intentions, I call upon the president to rescind this plan and instead continue to focus on our nation's ability to contribute constructively toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Along with other interreligious partners, I continue to stand ready to discuss with the president ways to reach a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- - - About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,200 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
For information contact: Candice Hill Buchbinder 773-380-2877 Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org