Saturday, May 28, 2011

But I wanna!

Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth”. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge...  - Psalm 46:10-11
The month of May has been full of horrible weather, catastrophes, international events, endings, new beginnings and all sorts of emotional situations.  We have seen floods and tornados, we’ve seen international fugitives brought to justice, we basked in the afterglow of a royal wedding, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews graduated from high school and college and we are looking forward, with some anxiety, some excitement and some trepidation, to an unknown future.
But is it really unknown? And unknown by whom?  As humans, it is our natural inclination to want to know ‘the plan’; to have an understanding of what is coming up ahead so that we can prepare ourselves and make sure we’ve got everything under control.  But the truth is this, the world is uncertain; there are choices to be made and those choices impact our world, and the world around us.  It is impossible to know what the future will hold...except for this:  “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message) These are God’s words as written by the Prophet Jeremiah to the remnant remaining in exile. Those words are for all of God’s people; then and now.  
God’s promises to us to take care of us, not abandon us and to give us a future do not mean that every day will be sunshine and roses. But the promises mean exactly what they say...that God will not abandon us. Through all of the disasters, catastrophes, fighting, celebrating and transitions, we have a God who is faithful to His promises and walks beside us.  As Jesus’ heart was saddened by the death of Lazarus, so is God’s heart saddened by the death of even ONE of His children.  As Jesus celebrated at the Wedding at Cana, so does God celebrate with any of us when we enter into relationships with one another. As Jesus prayed for the Father’s blessing upon the disciples as they began their public ministry without him, so does God bless each one of us as we begin a new chapter in our lives.
The future we hope for is a future full of joy, love and, most of all, eternal life with God in Heaven. That is what is promised to us. Our life here on earth will be one that is full of trials & tribulations, celebrations, endings & new beginnings...through it all, God is here with us.  God is in the devastation, giving us the determination to rebuild. God is in our relationships, giving us the patience and faith to accept and love each other. God is in our endings and new beginnings, giving us the wisdom and courage to begin again.
Be still and know that He is God...our refuge...our promise...and He is here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Praying for Peace, Not Death...

This is another departure from my usual devotion...sorry. I'll get back to those later this week. I simply feel like there is a Christian voice that has been missing from all of these discussions and I wanted to add my 2 cents...

In the May 5 edition of the Benton County Daily Record an article titled "Religious Leaders Weigh in On Bin Laden's Death" got me all fired up.   In the article 5 religious leaders from NW Arkansas were quoted. The Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist leaders all renounced the celebration of his death, calling instead for continued prayer and reconciliation.  The 2 Christian leaders they quoted left me absolutely speechless (well for about 2 minutes) and then infuriated.

One evangelical pastor said that bin Laden's death came as a result of answered prayers for justice, that God chose bin Laden's death. He went on to say "God chooses how he answers prayers...when justice is served, as I think it was in this situation, we do give thanks for the answer to prayers." Another Baptist pastor said (and I quote) "My initial reaction was 'Thank you, Lord,' because we needed something, considering the bad economy and the controversy over the current president's birth certificate, war, heavy rain and all the other things.  We also celebrate the death of wickedness as an answer to our prayers."

So I was upset...upset enough to do something I have never done before...write a letter to the editor. It was finally published here it is...


I am writing in response to the article titled “Religious Leaders Weigh In on Bin Laden’s Death” in the May 5 edition of the Daily Record. The article, as I read it, seemed to be lacking the grace-filled Christian voice of peace that I hear from my friends and colleagues.
I join my Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim brothers in calling the actions of the past week a call to justice,  peace and healing & reconciliation.  As a Christian I certainly do not see Bin Laden’s death as an answer to prayer. I, for one, never prayed for him to die. Scriptures call me to love and to pray for my enemies (Matthew 5:44) - while it is the hardest thing I do, I know that only God has the power to change people. Violence, hatred and war do nothing to change the hearts and minds of people - only God’s unconditional love and grace can do that.  My fervent prayers continue that God will accomplish this.
As a Christian leader in our community, it is my responsibility to draw people together.  To bring unity by declaring the Good News of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ for all people; not to draw lines of division and hatred. Celebrating the death of our enemy only strengthens the lines of division and increases the distance between us.
I am relieved that a source of evil has been defeated however, to think that the news of his death wipes out the fears of a faltering economy, overcomes the sadness surrounding the destruction of homes and lives by violent weather and will hush the voices who continue to question our leadership is absurd. Evil still exists, hatred and fear run rampant...and it will continue until we can learn to live together in peace, respect one another as God’s children and learn to pray for the unity of ALL.
My ultimate rejoicing comes in knowing that God has promised that, on that final day, love will overcome hatred, peace will overcome violence and God’s justice will finally unite all people of the earth. Until that day, I will continue to pray for our communities, our country, our world, and yes, even my enemies.
Rev Stacy Seger
Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church
Bentonville, AR

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer...couldn't have come at a better time...

This isn't my typical blog post - it's actually a letter that I sent out to members of my congregation heart has been heavy as we've been through a rough week together, so I thought I would share...peace...

"Joy finds its fullest and deepest expression not over a human death but in God’s promise to unite all things in heaven and on earth, to reconcile the human family and to bring God’s reign of peace." 
Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson

Dear members & friends of Christ the King -

This week has been one of varied emotions for all of us. The events of this week have left some feeling relieved, joyful or victorious while others were left feeling heavy-hearted, fearful or disillusioned. Perhaps you felt a combination of all of these. In any case, emotions and spirits were running high this week and I believe that Bp Hanson's words were a powerful message of hope and security for a darkened world.

Regardless of how you feel about the events of this week, your emotions are justified; they are your own and are to be respected. Each opinion and feeling is as unique as the person who owns it. As Christians, however, we can come together around the sure and certain promise of God to reconcile the entire human family to Himself and bring an everlasting peace to all. We have the awesome responsibility and opportunity to enact that now.

Today marks the 236th National Day of Prayer since the first one was called in 1775 by the Continental Congress. Since then, throughout the years, there have been prayer rallies, marked days of prayer and assemblies. 2003 marked the beginning of the organized, national activities we see today. I urge you this day, on this National Day of Prayer, to take time out of your schedule to pray. Pray for those who lost their lives due to acts of violence or hatred. Pray for all those who have lost loved ones. Pray for the church that we may be a beacon of hope in a dark world. Pray for all military members and their families that they might be filled with God's spirit of justice and peace. Pray for our community that we may shun violence and hatred. Pray for our world that love would overcome hate. And, finally, pray for those who would seek to hurt and destroy out of hatred and vengeance.

Praying for our enemies is one of the hardest things we can do - yet one of the most effective. For Jesus commands in Matthew 5 Love your enemies...pray for those who persecute you....Praying for miracles, for God's action in our lives or the lives of others is not fruitless, for only God is powerful enough to make change like that happen.

Grace & Peace to you, my friends.

Pr. Stacy