Pastoral letter to the People of Saint Luke Lutheran Church

Where is God? God is where the hurting and broken and the forces of death are. How do we know this? Because that is where the resurrection occurs. Always.

In the aftermath of the most deadly mass shooting in the history of the United States, all of us are filled with thoughts and feelings that span the gamut of human experience. Horror, Rage, Fear, Compassion, a deep desire to help and yet also a deep sense of helplessness…and the list goes on.

As people of faith we abhor the reckless disregard for the sanctity of human life.
As people of faith we will not tolerate hate of any group of people as acceptable.
As people of faith we are desperate to help the nation find the solution, the guarantee that this cannot happen again.
As people of faith we know that when our hearts are broken and our capacities frustrated, God’s promise to be with us is sure.

Today, the voices of Americans and our neighbors around the world are all raised to lift up the questions that need to be raised in this moment. Questions of how we choose to live together in this nation. Questions of easy access to assault weaponry, questions of how law enforcement and other systems work together to identify those who have a history of violent behavior or hostile extremist perspectives. We ask ourselves as a nation, how well do we provide mental health care? How effective are we in refusing to tolerate homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia?… and the list goes on.

As people of faith we are engaged in these dialogues in meaningful ways.
As people of faith we stand alongside all who are hurting, sharing their pain, even from a distance; hearts reaching out to hearts with compassion.
As people of faith we are praying for all who are living through what is truly an unthinkable nightmare.

We pray for God to sustain the grieving, moment-by-moment, day-by-day.
We pray for the kind of comfort that enables people in shock and horror to keep breathing, even when nothing makes sense.
We pray for the nation, that we will face our brokenness and finally resolve to do whatever it takes to put an end to the scourge of gun violence that plagues, sickens, terrorizes and denigrates us all.

At times like this some people forget that prayer IS DOING SOMETHING. We pray knowing that God is at work in us and in the world and we remember that even Jesus prayed when the help he needed was beyond his to manage.

All of this is necessary, but it is not enough.

At times like this some people who pray forget the truth of the scripture that says, “faith, without works, is dead”. Prayers without the actions, which embody the very essence and heart of our faith, are meaningless, pointless, an exercise in privileged isolation.

At times like this, people of faith pray and act to give witness to God’s values, love, respect, compassion, justice, forgiveness, inclusive welcome for all.

We do this to clearly stand with Jesus in his teaching and demand for honoring life and each other.
We do this because we have been given the responsibility to steward this exquisite world; we have to safeguard it by striving to end the forces of destruction that violate God’s ways.

People of Saint Luke Lutheran Church, friends, family members, neighbors, sisters and brothers of this nation, all this matters, BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO HIDE BEHIND WORDS THAT ALONE CANNOT AND WILL NOT PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN. There is no excuse for the gratuitous slaughtering that persists day in and day out. WE MUST ACT TO END THIS. It will take collective social actions, it will take changes in legislation, it will take a shift in the collective consciousness of the nation that finally chooses to err on the side of protecting innocent human lives. There is no one perfect magic wand, but with every kind of effort and the strength of our collective voices and prayers we CAN PUT AN END TO THIS CARNAGE.

I CALL ON ALL THE MEMBERS OF ST. LUKE to take your part, as people of “a more excellent way”. We may not be able to put an end to all evils, or all killings even, but we CAN stop making it EASY for the slaughtering to continue. We CAN make it extremely difficult for people with troubled histories who evidence unstable behavior to obtain automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Other countries have managed to do it. In fact, no other country around the world turns a blind eye to the inherent danger of these weapons, in the hands of civilians, in the ways that we do in the United States.

I urge you to take action today to connect your faith and your pain with a solution that is achievable. Do what you know is consistent with your understanding of God’s design for this world. Do something. Today. This week. And each month until our people are safe from this peril.

The agencies and opportunities below may be a resource for your next steps as people of God, in response to the devastation we all feel. You may have others to share, as well, via social media or word of mouth. Together we can put an end to the horrific loss of innocent lives.

Where is God in all this? God is – where the hurting and broken and forces of death are at work. And that is where we need to be as well: God’s work, our hands. That is where the resurrection occurs. Always.

In love, we are woven together in God’s grace,

Pastor Janet

If you would like to express your concerns to your elected officials, call the U.S. Capitol Hotline at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators. You may want to:

Inquire about legislation that they support to put an end to gun violence.
Ask them about repealing the ban on gun violence research by the CDC.
Ask them what is holding up the process of enacting sensible gun violence protections?
Ask them about the proposed legislation to which Pres. Obama referred last week in his public Q & A on this issue. (Some examples are:

S. 551/ H.R. 1076, which would prevent individuals on the Terrorist Watch List from purchasing and owning firearms.
S. 2934/H.R. 3411, which would require that background checks be conducted on all private sales of firearms.
H.R. 4269, which would renew and strengthen the federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was in place from 1994-2004.)

Lutheran and other Advocacy Organizations:

Southwest California Synod Joint (Lutheran / Episcopal) TaskForce on Gun Violence Prevention: Facebook Page:
Joint Episcopalian/Lutheran Gun Violence Prevention Task
Force – sign up for notifications and ways to become involved.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in America –sign petitions, stay informed, contact legislators, IMAGINE A FUTURE FREE FROM GUN VIOLENCE

Set up by Equality the state’s largest LBGT advocacy group. 100% of alldonations will go directly to victims’ families.

Vote for candidates who take seriously the need for sensible gun violence prevention measures. Ask the candidates you like what they will do to keep assault weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
Attend our Candlelight Prayer

Vigil/Neighborhood Call to Action
This Thursday, 7pm – June 16, 2016
@ St. Luke Lutheran Church

Worship Planning Conversation

What do you like about Worship at St. Luke? What would you like more of? Join us for a worship planning conversation this Wed., April 13th, at 1pm in Pastor Janet’s office as we look ahead to worship opportunities for the summer and beyond! ALL are welcome! (You don’t need to have a worship or musical background, just be willing to share your experiences and hopes!) If you can’t make it on Wednesday, but have thoughts to share, contact Pastor Janet! Your feedback is welcome!


MID-WEEK LENTEN WORSHIP Generosity and Gratitude 5 Weeks of Soup, Songs, Stories & Silence

A VERY HEARTY THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE
FOR SHARING THEIR STORIES DURING OUR LENTEN
GATHERINGS! Each one was very meaningful!!
(If your schedule didn’t allow you to join us, here’s what you missed
… – you might want to have coffee with one of these presenters and
hear first-hand how it was for them!
2/17 Generosity and Gratitude…
as well-springs of faithful living
Personal Sharing – Pastor Janet

2/24 Living generously and a gratefully…
in times of challenges, grief, or change
Personal Sharing – Lisa Curtis

3/2 Living Generously and with Gratitude…
in forgiveness
Personal Sharing – Randy Kistler

3/9 Cultivating Generosity and Gratitude for our Neighbors…
in Compassion
Personal Sharing – Kathlynn Hansted Meadors

3/16 Living out of a spirit of Generosity and Gratitude…
in Prayer
Personal Sharing – Judy Simpson-Platts

HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE 2016

3/20 PALM SUNDAY – 9:30 AM
We gather outside and join the historic chorus, shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” Enter into the Story of Jesus’ last days on earth.

3/24 MAUNDY THURSDAY – 7PM
We gather to share in Jesus’ last meal and hear again the nature of the kind of discipleship he calls us into. Holy Communion will be served and Foot washing will be offered to those who are interested in experiencing the power of the moment for Jesus’ first disciples.

3/25 GOOD FRIDAY– TENEBRE – 7PM
Under the cover of darkness, the story of the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Jesus unfolds. Come to hear the voices of those who have walked and lived with Jesus. This evening is a somber worship experience of darkness, music and a liturgical dramatic reading entitled, “Facing the Shadows”.

3/27 EASTER SUNDAY! – 9:30 AM
Celebrate the Resurrection of the Living God! Join the ancient refrain, “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” Brunch for all and Egg Hunt for children following worship.