Raising Our Voices in a Messy World – A Pastoral Letter from the Conference Minister

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18

Rev. Shari PrestemonIt has been a devastating, mind-numbing week. Last Thursday, suicide bombings in Beirut left at least 43 dead and over 200 more wounded. The very next day, 129 souls perished in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. In both cases, the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The world seemed to have a simultaneous response of stark contrasts. On the one hand, there was an outpouring of support and prayer by countless elected leaders world-wide and love and prayers flooded social media. (It should be noted here that the trauma and loss experienced by Beirutis was only belatedly acknowledged.) On the other hand, some quickly reacted with utter mercilessness and prejudice, as governors and others declared their ‘doors’ shut to all Syrian refugees. Horror turned to panic; sympathy morphed into blame.

And then on Sunday, here in our own Minnesota, an unarmed 24-year-old Jamar Clark was fatally shot by a policeman in Minneapolis. Protests soon erupted as long-festering questions about police conduct in minority communities boiled to the surface. Our inability to grapple with racism was on display.

Our world is a messy one these days. Terror, injustice, mistrust, and hatred dominate our headlines. Violence is pervasive. And each of us are easily drawn into the hyperbole, allowing our own words and behavior to reflect the dysfunction that grips the world we live in. Fear drives and imprisons us.

Yet soon we will enter the season of Advent and hear that voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness. Soon we will hear the angels proclaim “fear not”. And soon we will welcome the Christ Child, God’s own bold witness of unmistakable love, unerring mercy, and unyielding welcome.

So what distinctive voice will we as people of faith raise amid our modern day wilderness experience?

*Let us speak truth and seek truth, taking care to do so as the scriptures commend, steeped in love and refusing to let anger win. Let our objective be to build up the community rather than to tear it down, to expand love rather than shutter it.

*Let us resist the temptation to build a fortress around our lives and communities by keeping others out; rather, let us follow the example of Jesus and the testimony of our holy scriptures to extend a wide welcome of mercy and compassion to the stranger seeking refuge.

*Let us reject fear and muster up courage, put aside hate in favor of love, refuse despair by insisting on hope.

Let our witness overwhelm the world’s wilderness. Let our perfect love cast out our fears. Let us be deeply faithful in these days.

Grace and peace,
Shari signature

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister