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February 2020

posted Jan 29, 2020, 11:25 AM by Christine Rice

Dear people of God,

           During the month of February we are in the season of Epiphany, at least until we get to Ash Wednesday on Feb 26.  Epiphany is the season of light: light in the midst of winter darkness.  The daylight hours are getting longer now, but there is still so much darkness in our world.  I am greatly disturbed by the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, white supremacy, xenophobia and hate crimes in our country and world.  To combat the creeping in of these sins, I would encourage all of us to read authors from different cultures and, whenever possible, listen to and make friends with people whose life experiences are different from our own.

            I am remembering a wonderful class I had the last semester of my senior year at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.  By that time most of us were finishing up our core requirements for graduation and needed a few more elective credits.  Prof. Jim Limburg offered a 2 hour class one evening a week on the works of the great Jewish author Elie Wiesel.  Every week, the 7 or 8 of us in the class read a book by Elie Wiesel and wrote a short paper.  Then, during class we sat around Prof. Limburg’s fireplace, read our papers and discussed the book.  We started with Wiesel’s classic and disturbing little book, “Night.”  “Night” is Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical account of being in a Nazi death camp as a youth during WWII.  In my humble opinion, “Night”, should be required reading for everyone.  I don’t see how anyone could be a holocaust denier after reading “Night.”  Other works by Wiesel which we read for the class include, “A Beggar in Jerusalem” and “The Town Beyond the Wall.”

            February is also Black History Month.  We give thanks for the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many others.  I think of African American friends I knew at Fordham Lutheran Church in New York City. Half a lifetime ago, I did my year of internship at Fordham Lutheran in The Bronx and rode the subways everywhere.  I remember Nat & Naomi Baxter and their daughter Edith, Madgie Johnson, Una Richardson, Jeannette Puryear and her son Walter.  At that time the little congregation was about equal parts black, white and Latino.  When we passed the peace of the Lord during worship, everyone got up and gave everyone else a hug.  Some of the older black women gave me a motherly or grandmotherly kiss on the cheek or on the lips.  Looking back, I think they felt a little sorry for this skinny 25 year old white boy from Washington State who looked like he was 19 or 20.  They were welcoming me and accepting me.

            Recently I read “Dear Church”: a good and disturbing book by Lenny Duncan.  Lenny Duncan is an African American pastor at an ELCA congregation in Brooklyn, NY.  The full title of the book is “Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.”  I commend it for your reading.  The book shows the ways we white folks unknowingly participate in racism.   Did you know the ELCA is the whitest denomination in the U.S.?  I didn’t.  I knew we were largely white, but not the whitest.  When the ELCA first formed in 1989, we had a goal of becoming at least 10% persons of color in 30 years.  But we are still stuck at about 3% in 2020.  It all goes back to the way Lutheran immigrants mostly settled in the northern parts of the U.S.  But for all of our inclusive statements, ecumenism and friendliness, people of color still mostly stay away from ELCA churches.  I don’t have any answers other than to read the works of people of color and listen and befriend and invite whenever possible.  I know that is easier said than done in Eastern Washington.  At least we have a good university which provides some opportunities.

            We do know that our Savior Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, came to break down all artificial barriers of race, class or nation.  Fully living that out as disciples of Jesus in this world is very

challenging.             

 

 In Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

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