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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…where there is hatred, let me sow love.

This prayer, attributed to the 12th/13th century Saint Francis of Assisi, came to mind when I heard about the spate of bomb threats to Jewish communities across the country last week. And now, this deplorable behavior has found its way to the territory of this synod: the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis received a bomb threat on Monday, February 27. This behavior, like all hateful, threatening, or violent actions that target individuals, as well as a whole group of human beings, is simply wrong. It’s sinful. It needs to be called out, confronted, and corrected as much as it is in our power to do so. In doing so, we stand in solidarity and support with our Jewish sisters and brothers.

But that’s not enough.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

(8th Commandment)

As we move through this 500th year since the beginning of the Reformation, many of us are renewing our acquaintance with various writings and resources from and about that medieval movement that changed the church and impacted the world. A great place to begin is with Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. A great time to begin is the season of Lent.

Local faith communities might shape Wednesday worship around sections of the catechism or add a brief time for exploration and discussion of the catechism before or after worship. Families could briefly read and discuss parts of it once or twice a week before saying grace at dinner. Individuals might slowly read through, meditate on, and journal about the catechism in devotional time two or three times a week.

Cross-Marked and Spirit-Sealed Children of God

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Romans 6:3

In mid-January I experienced a distinct pleasure that I have had only a handful of times over the last six and a half years of ministry as bishop: I preached and presided at the baptism of Xavier Alan Burkholder, the son of two of this synod’s pastors, Joshua Burkholder and Carolyn Lesmeister. Over the last half dozen years, I have presided at Communion and preached for countless worship services across and beyond this territory. I have presided at somewhere between 35 and 40 commissionings, consecrations, and ordinations. All of these experiences bring me deep joy as a pastor and bishop. But every time I pour the water and Word over the head of a new sister or brother in Christ, I am brought back again to the very essence of who I am and who we are as baptized and beloved, cross-marked and Spirit-sealed children of God. This is the foundation for all our worship, ministry, and service in the world.

You shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”

Isaiah 62:6-12 is one of the suggested readings for Christmas Day. There are no shepherds in Isaiah’s proclamation, no star, no angels or magi, no Mary, Joseph or Jesus. There is only promise, the encouragement to hold God to God’s promise, and sentinels and ensigns to herald the fulfillment of the promise drawing near. See, your salvation comes! You shall be called, “Sought Out…Not Forsaken”!

More than a year ago, the I-K Synod began work with Augsburg Fortress and the Theological Book Network to provide desperately needed books for the library of the theological seminary (“STT”) of the HKBP, our companion church in Indonesia. Essentially, the synod raised the money and made the connections, Augsburg Fortress provided the books, and the Theological Book Network made it happen. While the delivery of the books was greatly delayed, we recently received notice that they have finally arrived (all 42 boxes!) and are nestled on the shelves and in the hands of students and faculty of the seminary. Thanks to all who partnered together to make this happen!

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