A Letter To My Congregation

To the Members and Friends of Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church, 

I know this past week felt as though we were reliving some of the worst moments of our nation's history.  

The harsh rhetoric and tensions surrounding the conflict with North Korea are eerily familiar, reminding us of some of the tensest moments of the Cold War.  Likewise, the news from Charlottesville is a harsh reminder of the violence surrounding the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s. 

I know I am not alone in feeling a deep sense of sorrow and hopelessness as we experience these same tensions decades after those conflicts supposedly ended.  

It would be all too easy to give in to fear and even despair as we listen to world leaders taunt and goad each other to war, and to succumb to the tyranny of helplessness and resignation when it comes to the tragic and violent ends of racism and bigotry.  

However, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are as relevant today as they were when he penned them over fifty years ago. He wrote:  

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

The very embodiment of the "unarmed truth and unconditional love" that Dr. King spoke of was Jesus Christ himself. 

Think about it.  Jesus was accosted by an angry band of thugs armed with torches and clubs. Jesus was beaten and reviled by people filled with hate.  Jesus, who urged his followers to reject violence and war, was subjected to the worst that war and violence had to offer.  

But Jesus prayed for those who persecuted him—even to the end.  He begged God to forgive them because Jesus knew that (in the words of Esau Malley) the hate that drove them to their destructive acts was "a burden too heavy for them to bear."  

As followers of Jesus, we must stand against racism, bigotry, hatred and the lust for war. We must be angry in the same way that Jesus showed anger at injustice.  But we also must never let our anger lead us to embrace the very evil we decry.  

I hope you will join me in praying for peace in our world, and for the Spirit of God to rest on all those who are living in the shadow of rockets and nuclear warheads.  

I urge you to join me in praying for the family of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed this week in Charlottesville.  May her memory be a blessing.  

Pray also for all those who were injured and traumatized by the same act of terrorism that took Heather's life---an act perpetrated by a man, who was twisted by hate, and blinded by bigotry. 

And then join me in praying for all those who are carrying burdens of hate that are too heavy for them to bear.  Pray that they will find peace and forgiveness.  

Pray all this in the name of the One who loved us all and gave himself for us.  In the name of Jesus, the Risen Christ. 

My beloved congregation and friends, you are loved and prayed for daily.  

Counting it all Joy, 

Pastor Leon 


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