From Our Pastor – May 2017

“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

In the office area of my house, to the left of my desk, I have a professionally framed callig-raphy piece with this verse from Psalm 46. This is the psalm upon which Martin Luther’s most famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is based. The imagery in the whole psalm is quite tumultuous, including earth-shattering events and warring nations. God is described as a refuge and strength and as exalted. All of these characteristics are a re-sponse to trouble all around. The response of the psalmist Is not to fear. The role of God is to be present. Our role in the midst of turmoil is to be still and to know that God is God.

The bishop of the New England Synod recently released a YouTube video of interviews with several pastors responding to the question of how they are engaging with their congrega-tions in these “turbulent and political times.” The different pastors are from a variety of contexts around the synod and they are responding to the question of how to preach and lead when there are “hot button” issues pervading our culture and dividing us as a nation. The responses differed somewhat, but the common theme was to stay in relationship with one another and to remember that God is God.

Being still does not necessarily mean taking no action. But in the case of the psalmist and in our context when there is so much activity going on around us – so much stimulation, so many disasters, so much discord, so much fighting – it’s important to find a center before acting. One theme in the pastors’ responses was around how to respond and not just be reacting to things. Sitting and breathing and being still or silent is one part of that. Listening to others with an open mind requires us to be still. Communicating our own truth, especial-ly when others may not agree or may not even be able to hear it, will happen more effec-tively after some time of stillness.

In some of the contexts served by these pastors there is reticence and fear of talking about “politics” or potentially divisive issues. Some pastors have preached what they considered to be “neutral” sermons about current issues and have been surprised by the strong reac-tions they have received. I do my best not to be neutral so much as to incorporate and acknowledge various perspectives. Yet when a biblical passage almost seems to be address-ing a specific issue, it’s hard to ignore it. Some things that come to mind include wealth and poverty, forgiveness, including outcasts, caring for creation and trusting in God.

In this Easter season, we will continue to hear from John’s Jesus on Sunday mornings. In these words of Jesus, listen for the theme of being still and knowing God. We will hear some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples and his prayer to God just as he is entering into the tumult of crucifixion and death. Yet always, we are able to hear these words as people on the other side of Christ’s resurrection. No matter how tough things get, it is not the end of the story.

With Easter Joy,

Pastor Gaeta