In a training session for church professionals, the Army chaplain wanted to equip us for responsible ministry on behalf of returning troops and their loved ones. That we might best be prepared for a meaningful ministry, the chaplain wisely invited several returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan to tell of their experiences. They shared stories about life in battle zones and followed up with stories about their adjustment hurdles when they returned home.
By sharing their stories, these brave and honest men and women built bridges by which mutual ministry could evolve. Their messages rang true—the more for the toll of putting into words such horrendous burdens of body and soul.
A recurring theme was that of a sense of indescribable separation and loneliness from all who had not experienced the horrors of war. Building upon that theme of separation and loneliness, the chaplain admonished the gathered ministers to be gifted providers of the healing that absolution so bountifully assures.
But what, oh fellow absolvers, of the emptiness in our own hearts? Have we even considered being a "we" with the lonely "I" who seeks the healing of absolution? Have we ever reflected upon what we have done and what we have left undone in relationship to all the ambiguities of our being responsible citizens of a nation that sends this generation away from home to engage in war?
Without such examination, can we ever truthfully and beneficently fulfill our ministry?
May we find courage in the balanced pastoral, priestly and prophetic guidance of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson. The September 2008 issue of The Lutheran reported the following about Hanson's participation in the Women of the ELCA Seventh Triennial Gathering: "Hanson called for acts of public repentance, confession, and prayers of lament. ... Historic just war principles are no longer tenable, Hanson said, asking women to help create ‘principles for just peace and lasting reconciliation.' "
Hanson examined more fully that theme of communal repentance on behalf of the well-being of the church and the world in his November column in The Lutheran.
May each of us be good soil for the seeds of hope, justice, healing and peace, so graciously planted. May we together now speak and live in such a way that we leave no doubt about our shared community with all who may be feeling separated and bearing alone that participation in the injustices that inevitably are a product of war.
Check out this week's articles:
JONAH hears God's call: (right) They do ministry through community organizing.
Mobile ministry: Wheelchairs aid forgotten poor.
On the right road: Reporter keeps Houston moving.
Affirming the gifts of youth : Each year, the Southeastern Synod trains servant leaders.
Also: Learn from ICE raid.
Also: Removing Mugabe 'risky.'
Feb. 10-17: Join Paul Oppedahl (upper right) and Susan Engh (lower right) to discuss congregation-based community organizing.
Oppedahl is pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran in Chippewa Falls, Wis. Engh is director for congregation-based organizing, ELCA Church in Society.
Consider reading "JONAH hears God's call " before joining the conversation.
This week on our blog:
Amber Leberman (right) blogs about social networking.
Andrea Pohlmann blogs about clicking for causes.
Sonia Solomonson blogs about making each day count.
Kathleen Kastilahn blogs about John Updike and Garrison Keillor.
Tell us! Communicating hope
How are you communicating hope in these hard economic times? Pastors, are your preaching and pastoral care changing—and if so, how? Lay people, how are you caring for friends, family, neighbors and colleagues
in word and deed? Is there a silver lining to this dark cloud? Respond 300 words maximum) to firstname.lastname@example.org or to her at The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago IL 60631 by March 10. Please include your name, congregation, city and state.
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The February issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived!
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(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 800-328-4648.)
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