Over the past days, words from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8 have come into my heart and have been upon my lips—“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of labor, right up to the present moment…”
We, the whole creation of God, groan, we lament, we cry out for the lives of 9 beloved Children of God, who, while studying the Word of God within the walls of Mother Emmanuel, were not safe from the vicious sin of hate and racism. We, as the whole creation of God groan and lament because again and again, from Birmingham to Charleston, Children of God are murdered in the very house of God—killed by the hands of one drenched in sin and hate.
In the midst of groaning and lamenting, I continued reading Paul’s letter--“The Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, I call upon the Spirit, I cling to this hope and promise, because my sighs are too deep for words. I speak to you first and always as a Child of God. I also speak to you as an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
And it was at an ELCA seminary, The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, that Rev. Pinckney and Rev. Simmons received theological training—these pastors were part of our Lutheran family. During their time at the seminary, during weekly chapel, they worshiped, prayed and extended their hands to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with my Lutheran colleagues. And that’s just too close to home…My sighs are too deep for words…
But, the young man who entered Mother Emmanuel and slaughtered 9 Children of God, this young man was a member of a South Carolina Lutheran congregation. In his church, he heard the same liturgy, and extended his hands at the Lord’s Table. And that’s just too close to home—. My sighs are too deep for words…
As Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said in a written statement Friday “All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own," said Eaton.
My sighs are too deep for words as I acknowledge the sin of denial, and complacency, the sin of racism and hate have spilled more blood—my sighs are too deep for words as we spend time in repentance and mourning, not of the sins of the past, of our history, but of the sins of this very present moment. Bishop Eaton encouraged us to spend the weekend in repentance and mourning—then, she said “we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage."