For Your Prayers
With you, I have been stunned by the news of the shooting deaths of nine sisters and brothers in Christ who were gunned down while attending Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Once again, the demon of racism rears its hideous head. Once again, we hear and read of tragic injustice that exceeds our ability to express in words. Nor can we frame prayers fully adequate for the shock, grief, and outrage.
Spirit of the Living God, intercede for us with sighs too deep for words.
Each of the slain has her or his personal story, with now grieving family and
friends. The pastor of the congregation, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s life
intersected with many in our ELCA. Pastor Pinckney, who also served as a
South Carolina state senator, received his Master of Divinity degree from
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC, one of our ELCA seminaries. Surviving him are his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters, Eliana (11) and Malana (6).
We have learned also that the shooter was a member of a Lutheran congregation in
Columbia, SC. Bishop Herman Yoost of the South Carolina Synod passes along
that the pastor of this congregation has been providing much needed pastoral
care to the family of the accused, as they struggle to make sense of that which
Bishop Michael Rhyne of the Allegheny Synod, a personal friend of Pastor Pinckney and fellow student at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, introduces his call
to prayer in the Allegheny Synod with these words from Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth…
The Lord will keep you for all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
Bishop Rhyne continues: “I cannot give a reason why evils like this happen.
Nevertheless, I know that in the face of such evil the God who rose again from
the dead walks with us and comforts us. I also believe that our Lord
calls us to respond to evil with love and grace and mercy. We see in
Jesus the one who took all of the evil that the world could throw at him, and
responded by giving himself for the sake of this world. Therefore, what I
know to do in times like these is to turn our hearts and our prayers to God,
and to pray for those who have been left behind.”
Please join in prayer that arises out of profound sadness for all those directly
experiencing grief and loss now, in particular the families and friends of the
victims at Emanuel Church: Pastor Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda
Singleton, DePayne Middleton, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance,
Daniel Simmons, and Susie Jackson. Please lift your eyes in prayer that
reaches out in hope to the Triune God, in whom there is life, restoration,
wholeness, and salvation. I offer to you again the prayer that I offered
when Ferguson, MO, was blazing with violence and looting. The hymn verse
that concludes this prayer is the third verse of “Holy Spirit Living Breath of
God” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty.
O God of all peoples and nations, we cannot undo the past or make it as though it
never happened. Teach us now to be at peace with you and to make peace
with others. Let us experience your sacrificial and saving love so fully
that our vision for today is renewed. Thank you, that you free us to face
the future with steady eyes, willing hearts, and ready hands to serve you as
Holy Spirit, from creation's birth, Giving life to all that God has made,
Show your power once again on earth; Cause your church to hunger for your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise. Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ Will be clear for all the world to see.
S. John Roth, Bishop
Central/Southern Illinois Synod (ELCA)