June 21, 2015 PSALM 27:1-6

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Words of promise and comfort begin our psalm today. Words of trust in who God is and what God does: God lights up our dark nights of the soul and saves us. God is our strength. Our fear doesn’t stand a chance.

I had a choice to make for today. I could try and preach a sermon that would fit with the joy of our liturgy – Nate Houge’s Little Liturgy. Or I could preach about the reality that we all are living in in light of Charleston.

I figured a joyful sermon would sound hollow, even though this joyful liturgy heals my soul.

Yet, this psalm helps us because it’s a psalm that acknowledges our reality: we’ve got one foot in faith and one foot, well, firmly in the chaos of living. Because the world God created and creates and re-creates each day – well, there are no guarantees of safety, of life in a bubble. Nowhere in the creation story does God say, “you will live happily ever after” or “you’ll never suffer or hurt.” The guarantee is of God’s steadfast love for us. It is not moved or shaken.

Yet we are, aren’t we? We are moved and shaken. I am, once again, shaken by violence against black people, gathering in the safety of their church to study scripture, shot and killed by someone specifically targeting black people. Local Charleston authorities, upon apprehending the suspected killer, assured safety had returned to their community. But we all know that’s not true. Because before Charleston it was Baltimore and before Baltimore it was Texas and before Texas it was Ferguson. The list will go on and will include more city and town names that hoped they were immune.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

We have privilege in these words, living where we live, most of us having white skin. We don’t suffer the same fear as people with brown skin, we just don’t. There is privilege that comes with skin color. And racism in Hutchinson, Minnesota is alive and well, just as it is everywhere else. We are not immune. The ELCA, the church body to which we belong, is not immune and is desperately a white church. In a letter written by presiding ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, she stated plainly our connection in this hate crime:

two of the pastors killed went to an ELCA seminary. The shooter – an ELCA Congregation member. This is personal folks. This has come into our house.

Racism is alive and well in our church. Bishop Eaton went on to call racism just what it is – a sin – and to call us to repent and mourn and then to act by not tolerating racial slurs or acts of violence.

We have the privilege of going about our day today. And my privilege as your pastor is to tell you good news. To tell you that, in no uncertain terms, you are loved and you are saved. And that is the only good news that matters, isn’t it? But now, as we mourn and lament, we simply must see that we are sent out to love people. Not just ELCA people. Not just the ones we know and love. But all of the people. This is our great privilege, folks: to love God and to love people. And we’ve got to do that by showing up, raising our voices in protest for those who are not listened to, who are actively oppressed – that’s how we show love. That’s how we show faith in this God who will never stop loving us. Who mourns with Charleston today. Who mourns the brokenness, our sin.

We pray that all those impacted by the shooting this past week will know they are not alone. For those in deep grief as they mourn the death of their loved ones. Please pray with me the 6th verse of today’s psalm as I read the names of those killed in Charleston.

Pastor Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Tywanza Sanders

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Ethel Lance

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Susie Jackson

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Cynthia Hurd

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Myra Thompson

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Daniel Simmons Sr.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

DePayne Middleton Doctor,

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Pastor Clementa Pinckney

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Pastor Daniel Simmons

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

The psalmist is sure – the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

And wouldn’t you know? The people of Charleston, those reeling in the aftermath of their loved ones shot and killed — they are speaking words of forgiveness, asking for God’s mercy on the shooter’s soul. They are practicing being Christian in the most profound way, giving public witness to the God we follow, the God we love, the God who shapes our lives through Christ Jesus.

We have a model of how to act in situations like these. Jesus walked toward the cross, forgiving his enemies in the book of Luke, father forgive them, they know not what they do.

Today, we will join with millions of others in worship of God, raising our voices in joyful praise, raising our voices in lament and mourning, praying for God’s justice. Praying for our part in seeing God’s will happen on earth, as it is in heaven. It is our privilege to follow Jesus into the hard places.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear

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