Worship at Gloria Dei Saturdays 5:00pm, Sundays 9:00am and 10:30am

Looking to Scripture for Comfort and Assurance

Hello Gloria Dei,

When the world news becomes overwhelming, as we are seeing this week as Russia invades Ukraine, and when our own lives get complicated for any reason, it is good to search the words of Scripture for comfort, strength, and assurance.

For this weekend in worship, please read John chapter 11. It is the inspiring account of Jesus’ raising his friend Lazarus from the dead and is a strong reminder that God has won the victory over sin and death.

For my Friday Followings today I’d like to share with you a recent letter written by the SD Synod Bishop, Constanze Hagmaier. In her letter she reminds us to hearken back to the biblical characters of the past and to the Word of God to know indeed that God has our lives and our world in His gracious and loving hand.

In the meantime, if you are so moved to assist in the humanitarian efforts in and around Ukraine, Lutheran World Relief is a highly respected global organization through which you can donate.

Here is Bishop Hagmaier’s letter:
Dear South Dakota Synod,

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

The minute-by-minute updates about the Russian invasion of Ukraine overwhelm many of us. At the same time, we are trying everything to find our way out of the pandemic and its aftermath. At this point, we are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.

We are a tired people.
We are a tired world.
We are a tired church.

It can easily feel as if we have nothing more to give. But we are not alone in our weariness, even when we have no words left to say. The Apostle Paul reminds us that in our weariness, the Spirit is with us: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)

It is an ancient pattern that the people of God turn to the words of those gone before them. When the unfathomable finds its way into our lives, when we are without words, God’s Spirit invites us to pick up the words of those gone before us and make them our own. Take Mary for example. When overwhelmed by the news that she will be with child and that God is about to do a new thing that is unprecedented in human history, she turns to Hannah for language. Adopting Hannah’s words as her own, Mary begins to find and use words to express her state of heart and mind. Picking up Hannah’s words Mary herself finds her way out of the darkness of her soul. Hannah’s words help her to courageously live and lean into her unknown and undoubtedly frightening future. And through the adoption of Hannah’s words, Mary finds her footing again. Hannah’s words remind her that God is ever-present and will not forsake his good creation or people.

In a recent workshop at the Conference of Bishops, Dr. Betsy Stone shared the following insight: “Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self, and their ability to feel a full range of emotions, and experiences.” Did you catch that? The trauma is not the event, but the response. Trauma manifests itself in a part of the brain, the amygdala, that has no access to words. In order to work through trauma and learn to manage it, we will need to allow the trauma to move into parts of our brain that can give it language.

So, when you find yourself overwhelmed by life and without words, accept my invitation to journey with the saints gone before us. They are ready and standing by in scripture and in hymns to join you on your journey from the darkness of the soul to light and hope. Now is not the time to retreat to one’s own self and privacy, now is the time that the people of God lift up their voices with those who have gone before us, who have withstood the trials of time and temptations of the devil, who have survived fiery furnaces and genocide. We lift our voices with them for our neighbor in need of light and hope. Now is the time to be church together, to gather and remind each other of Isaiah’s words “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Dear South Dakota Synod, I invite you to commit yourself with me to pray Psalm 121 daily. As we pray together word by word, we will find our sure footing to courageously live into the next moment that God has ordained in time. While at the same time we will speak God’s hope and light, which no darkness can overcome, into our neighbors’ lives. Thanks be to God for words of promise.

Psalm 121
1I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
 where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
 the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
 he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
 will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
 the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
 nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
 he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
 both now and forevermore.

Journeying with you in Christ,
Rev. Constanze Hagmaier
Bishop of the South Dakota Synod
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