Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Language for Proclamation

(A sermon for the Feast of Pentecost)

The closest I have ever come to experiencing anything like what the people of Jerusalem experienced on that first Pentecost came at the death of the late Pope, John Paul II. Like many around the world, I tuned in through the televised broadcast to watch the huge crowds gather in Rome for the funeral in Vatican Square. It was with grateful surprise that I realized, “I understand the words!” My rudimentary high school Latin, augmented over the years with some church Latin in a rather hit-and-miss fashion, kicked into gear at hearing the words of the Mass.

“Dominus vobiscum.” “And with thy spirit,” I replied to the television set. Not exactly a miracle, and certainly not in the category of what happened on that early morning in Jerusalem; and yet I and countless thousands were joined as one through what is usually described as a dead language. Perhaps this is a needed reminder that, with God, what seems dead is improbably alive, and what is old and dusty in human terms can be made new in service to the eternal Word.

Whether it is the church speaking in one universally understood language, such as Latin, or the church attempting to speak in as many human languages as possible, the struggle to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, to all nations and languages and peoples is at the heart of this day. I often tell my students in confirmation instruction that each time the Bible has been translated, the impetus has arisen out of the need to bring the story of Jesus to more people in yet another language. From Hebrew to Greek, Greek to Latin, and then Latin into countless languages, the Holy Spirit has unscrambled the confusion created at Babel for the purpose of witness and proclamation. But unlike the construction of the tower, this single purpose and voice is to proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord: crucified, dead, buried, and then risen from the dead, now living and reigning to all eternity.

This work of translation and proclamation to all peoples in all places has not been without controversy, opposition and even danger. The history of the translation of the Bible into German, English, French, Spanish, and other emerging languages in Europe in the time of the Renaissance is one of daring as well as scholarship. Earlier, missionary bishops who traveled into the Northern reaches of the known world spoke the story of Jesus Christ to those who had not yet heard, often struggling to learn the native tongues of various tribes and peoples who as yet had no written language. Other Christians, finding themselves among those who had never heard the Gospel, took upon themselves the task of preaching the good news, and of translating this Word into words understandable for generations, even centuries, to come. A few days before Pentecost this year, the Church remembers just such a missionary, John Eliot, a Puritan emigrant to the Massachusetts Colony in 1631 who took up preaching to the Indians of New England, learning their language and translating the entire Bible into Algonquian, the dialect of the native people in his area. In 1663 this became the first Bible in any language to be printed in North America. This came at a time when many good Christians argued whether the native peoples in the Americas even had souls, and could become Christians at all.

Recently, I and others in the ELCA have had the experience of hearing the Gospel preached back to me from those who only a few generations ago were the recipients of missionaries from this country. The Oromo people of Ethiopia, a number of whom have immigrated to the United States, have become partners with those of us here in the ELCA. I have heard some of their preachers, both ordained and lay, proclaim the strong message of the good news of Jesus Christ, that death cannot stop him or his Advocate who comes bearing witness to the truth. They have told me their stories of courage in the face of persecution, of witness in the face of prison and death. They have learned my language in order to bring back to me a reminder of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about.

At times it seems that the Church, rather than being a place of clear proclamation spoken with one understandable voice, is instead Babel reborn. Different denominations speak in a confusion of tongues, emphasizing matters that seem to run contrary to one another. All point to the one Lord and one Scripture, but the differing interpretations seem to bring many to increased perplexity rather than enlightenment. The Church seems to be obsessed with an inner dialogue, even argument, with itself, splintering over and over again in quarrels great and small, over matters at times gravely important and at other times gravely non-essential. We appear to be so embroiled in disputes among ourselves that the work of bearing the Gospel to the nations and peoples at times falls to the wayside; and in fact, in many places modern Christians contend that this type of proclamation is misguided, oppressive and just plain wrong.

But today, in my own language, I hear a different word. I hear it from the Oromo churches in Minneapolis and Saint Paul; I hear it from the Rosebud Reservation, and from the Woyotan Worshipping Community in Rapid City; I hear it from Pastor Natanael Lizarazo, ELCA pastor from Colombia; I hear it from Bishop Victoria Cortez of the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope; I hear it from Pastor Constanza Hagmaier, an ELCA pastor from Germany. I hear that the Word became flesh and dwells among us, and that his light shines in the darkness and nothing can extinguish it. I hear that the Advocate comes to bear witness to the truth that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and that, in the words of Peter, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2.21)

The Advocate continues to blow the Word of God into and through the Church, sometimes in spite of the Church as an earthly institution, always calling the Church back to its true vocation as witness and proclaimer. Without his presence, we are still in the upper room, talking amongst ourselves. But Pentecost morning dawns once again, and a rumbling and a rushing sound of a mighty wind is coming: to us, through us, lifting us up and out into the streets and highways. The Word speaks again, using our voices, and we hear the voice of the Lord coming out of us, and out of you, and out of those whose languages we did not know. And with one voice we begin to speak: “In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

For the Record

Arresting people because they are gay or lesbian is wrong.

Sentencing anyone to serve time in prison, especially fourteen years at hard labor, because he or she is in or wishes to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender, is cruel and inhuman punishment.

Not speaking out against such miscarriages of justice is wicked.

Here is the story, reported by the BBC, as it has unfolded in Malawi:

Pray for these two men.
Write the U. S. State Department and encourage Secretary Clinton to use the influence of the United States to free these men.
Support the work of Amnesty International.

Don't just say you love the sinner, even though you hate the sin.
Do something.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What I Said

Since the name of this gathering this morning is "Steadfast in the Word: Toward a Renewed Lutheran Church," I thought I would begin with the Word. I will start my presentation with two brief readings from the New Testament.

From the 15th chapter of St. John: "I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."

And from the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor. . . . But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

Renewal in the Church begins with Jesus Christ. Renewal in the Church is always the work of Jesus Christ. Renewal in the Church is the gift given by Jesus Christ to those whom he has chosen to be members of his body, by grace, through his precious death and resurrection.

Renewal is not something we choose to do or choose not to do, as the fancy strikes us or as the moment may seem more or less opportune. Jesus Christ is always at work renewing his Church. Did we not hear in the reading from Revelation last Sunday the words from the One seated on the throne: "See, I am making all things new?" He will be renewing his Church without asking our permission to do so, without checking first with us to see if the moment is practically or politically expedient. He is Lord of the Church, and this is what the Lord of the Church does. He brings renewal so that the Church, his body, can be about the mission of living in the Great Commission. Insofar as the ELCA is part of the earthly, visible Church that confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Lord of the Church is working for the renewal of the ELCA.

So if you have come here today ready to wash your hands of the ELCA, ready to write off those who have made decisions that you believe are in error and go against Scripture, ready to give up and move on and away from a church body that you believe is sinful and unclean -- well, you are going to be disappointed.

What the Word tells us is that Jesus is about bringing renewal and new life, even when we are convinced that the body is dead and gone to dust. Jesus is about renewal and resurrection of those dead in their trespasses and sins.

Now, as a Lutheran, I must listen to that Word. And I am convinced that Lutheran CORE can serve that Word by continuing to be about renewal and reformation within the Lutheran expression of the Christian Church. And yes, that includes being about renewal and reformation within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

However. However, that renewal and reformation will need to take a different form, different tactics, than was the way of working for renewal and reformation prior to the Churchwide Assembly in August of 2009.

This where a lot of people are getting the wrong idea. What Lutheran CORE needs to turn away from is the idea that political reform, centered in the political structure of ELCA synod assemblies and churchwide assemblies and conference meetings and elections by quota and careful looking at the changing demographics and social structure of the secular culture to meet the emerging needs of the emergent church -- that all of that will somehow bring about the Kingdom of God.

Political work was tried. We did the best we knew how to do, and we tried to do that work honorably. And the votes last August went against us. Returning to assemblies over and over again, year after year, throwing more resolutions into the political constitutional system of the ELCA, only for them to get ground up and re-written and either defeated or passed in a form that none of us can recognize, and expect a different outcome from that process, is the definition of insanity. We now know that that kind of activity will not accomplish the reformation and renewal of the part of the Church of Jesus Christ that is known as the ELCA.

So what are we going to do? I believe we have three choices before us. One, do more of the same. (Some of that is happening this year in the synod assemblies.) Two, leave the ELCA. (And for some that is the right decision.) Or three, stay differently. Stay as a community of confessing Lutherans.

Lutheran CORE needs to focus on living the mission of the Great Commission, and on supporting and connecting those Lutherans who are committed to that mission of Jesus Christ in his Church, for the sake of the Word. Lutheran CORE will be that support, that connection, for those remaining in the ELCA, those who trust that the Lord of the Church is still at work renewing and reforming his Church, even if right now we can't see it.

But Lutheran CORE is also committed to coloring outside the lines of all of the Lutheran denominations going forward. Where in the first five years of its existence Lutheran CORE worked exclusively within the ELCA, to work with those traditional orthodox ELCA Lutherans working to defeat proposed policy and constitutional changes, now Lutheran CORE is committed to connect those traditional orthodox Lutherans regardless of which church body they find themselves in. Those within the ELCA will still, through Lutheran CORE, be able to maintain a connection with those who have left the ELCA for other Lutheran bodies, and also with those who may have never been in the ELCA but who see in the issues and struggle here a mirror of what is happening in other Lutheran bodies around the globe.

Lutheran CORE is not becoming a new denomination. But it intends to work with those in a number of Lutheran church bodies who find that what they confess together in this time of challenge (from those claiming that the Spirit is doing a "new thing") gives them a unity in Christ that cuts through the old denominational barriers. It is that community of support, of prayer, of mission, and of communication that will commit itself to learning from one another in order to be about the main thing, the mission of confessing Jesus Christ is Lord to the four corners of the globe.

Now I want to say something that we all need to attend to. One of the main temptations that all of us face right now is the temptation to make the decisions of last August, and to make the ELCA itself, the scapegoat for our own failure to live out that mission of confessing Jesus Christ is Lord to those who are outside of the Christian faith. Even in those instances where the news of the Churchwide Assembly has been received badly in one's own local community, it is too easy to say, "Well, we have to leave the ELCA or else we will cease to grow as a congregation; or we'll lose all our young people; or we'll lose all our good givers; or we'll lose the families that are the backbone of the congregation."

Each of us needs to be honest about our own short-comings. How many of us are tithers to the congregations in which we are members? How many of us have asked one person in the last year to come to church? How many of us have prayed with another person outside the walls of the church building, or have daily devotions in our own family, or told someone else of the hope that is in us because Jesus is risen from the dead?

If you aren't doing any of those things now, what makes you think that leaving the ELCA for another church body is going to make a difference for you? Even if that other church body is one that you are sure is closer to what the Bible teaches, how do you know that you will personally be changed? So don't blame the ELCA for your own failure to live as witnesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, risen from the dead, in your own community.

Now, things have changed. There is no going back to what things were like before last August. The ELCA has been changed, and we also are changed. We cannot go forward as if nothing has changed, or as if the changes don't and won't affect us.

Remember the reading from 1st Corinthians? We are part of the one Body, and we are inter-connected and inter-dependent on each other. That's a word we are hearing repeated a lot right now in the ELCA. Inter-dependent. The different expressions of the ELCA are inter-dependent, we are hearing said over and over. The constitution of this church is set up that way, so that congregations and synods and the churchwide level are all inter-dependent upon each other.

But it isn't the ELCA constitution that makes us inter-dependent. The constitution is the law, and the law (or Law) doesn't make us one. That's the work of the Gospel. It is Jesus Christ who has brought us into his body in an inter-dependent relationship with him, as he is in an inter-dependent relationship within the Holy Trinity, the Son with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And this Triune God, who needs to depend on no one, especially a creature, has chosen to become dependent on sinful human flesh. That's the Incarnation, as God chooses to depend on human beings for everything to sustain life, even to giving to human beings the responsibility of bearing the Gospel to the world.

What is the main thing about being inter-dependent? It is that what happens in South Dakota matters and affects what happens in the body of Christ, whether in St. Paul, Minnesota or Chicago, Illinois, or in Florida or California or New York. And what happens in those places matters to us here. So what happens in a congregation in Atlanta, Georgia matters to us because we are all part of the one body, interdependent on one another. And so we must continue to express that concern for one another, even if on the surface it would seem that what a congregation in the Metro New York Synod does and who it might call to be a pastor would have nothing to do with what happens in a congregation in Huron, or Highmore, or Mitchell, or Sioux Falls.

It seems that, at times, those trying to hold the ELCA together are encouraging us to abandon the idea that we are one body in Christ, and that what happens to another part of the body is my concern, my business. Unity cannot be based on that kind of divorce of one member of the body from another. That is as schismatic and devisive as any action of any congregation to leave the ELCA for another denomination. In fact, I would argue that is more schismatic, because it is based on a false unity, a unity that is only on the surface, that urges us to ignore the disagreements that leave too many unable to support the work of their synods and their national church ministries.

Lutheran CORE, however, is living and promoting that inter-dependence that is spoken of by both Jesus and Paul. We need each other, in order to help each other keep the main thing the main thing. We need each other in order to not be consumed with focusing on the negative things that we see happening or that we believe are happening. We need each other in order to support and encourage one another to live in forgiveness and love for one another, abiding by Martin Luther's explanation of the 8th Commandment to defend and speak well of others in the ELCA, and to put the best construction on what others say and do.

Living as a confessional movement in the Church, being the change that we want to see happen in the ELCA; refusing to undermine the ELCA while at the same time resisting what we cannot agree to support as our consciences are bound to the Word of God; confessing our own sins and failure to be "little Christs" to others and to love our neighbor as ourselves: that is what we are called to in this moment in the Church's story.

It is not easy. But don't kid yourselves. It is NEVER easy. We are being challenged, not by the ELCA nor by those who have worked for the policy changes of this past year, but by the Holy Spirit witnessing to the presence of the Risen Lord Jesus among us, to live as witnesses to those for whom Christ died. We are not being called to re-shuffle the alphabet soup of denominational names, or to trade members among our various congregations and church bodies (some sort of "I'll send my liberal members over there and you send your conservative members over here" action). Rather, we are being called to travel the road of discipleship, telling others the story of Jesus and baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching others to observe all those things that Jesus has taught us. (Even as we confess that we have failed to observe all those things ourselves: Lord, have mercy.)

And we are being called to do this because Jesus gives salvation to us, and to the world, as a free gift of grace, undeserved by any of us.

This is the adventure that we are being called to live. Lutheran CORE is striving to enter into the renewal and reformation that Jesus Christ is bringing about in his Church. As you live in your own communities and congregations, the first question is not, "How can I leave the ELCA?" Nor is it "How can I change the ELCA?" It is instead, "How can I live in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ, and witness to his power in my life and in this community? How can the congregation that I am a member of be a place of mission and evangelism, calling those who do not believe to rejoice in the gift God gives us through the call to repentance and new life in Jesus Christ?"

Here are some practical ideas for living as a confessional movement in association with others concerned for the witness and teaching of their church:
Pray with and for others. Pray for your pastor, and for your bishop.
Don't repeat rumors. Don't have secret meetings. Don't believe the worst, or ascribe the worst motives to others. Check out what is going on before you leap to conclusions.
Spend less time on the internet and in chat-rooms and on-line communities. Be with those flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters involved in mission.
Stay connected to others who support you, and support others who are struggling in all of this. Resist the temptation to demonize and speak ill of those who are being reinstated onto the roster of the ELCA. Pray for them instead.
Volunteer to teach Sunday School, or to be a visitor to those who have come to your congregation for the first or second time. Ask God to send to you and the congregation you are in people who have never been baptized. Ask God to teach you how to speak to those who have never been to church.

And read either Romans 12 or 1st Corinthians 13 every day. In closing, I leave all of you with some of that chapter right now. Remember, that ultimately this love being spoken of is the love of Christ that he shows to us; without that, we cannot hope to have this kind of love in us.

"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

Friday, May 07, 2010

To Witness Through Love

Acts 11: 1-18
Revelation 21: 1-6
John 13: 31-35

There are five little words at the beginning of the Gospel text that are very important to understanding what Jesus is saying. "When he had gone out. . . ." Just who is this "he"? Well, it is Judas. Judas the betrayer. Judas the traitor. In the verses just before, Jesus dipped his bread in the bowl and handed it to Judas, saying, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Judas then leaves the meal with Jesus and the other disciples, and goes out to lead the soldiers and others to the Garden of Gethsemene, where Jesus will be betrayed. Judas goes out, and the Passion of our Lord begins.

So why is it that Jesus then says, after Judas has left, that "Now the Son of Man has been glorified"? Haven't you ever wondered about that?

Jesus is proclaiming he is now glorified because his work on the cross has begun. In the Gospel of St. John it is made clear that Jesus' glory doesn't come only at the time of his resurrection, as wonderful as that is. Instead, his time of glory comes when he is crucified. It is on the cross that John 3:16 is fulfilled, that God sends his only beloved Son to save the world. It is the cross that makes salvation possible; the cross that re-unites all of us fallen, sinful human beings with the perfection and holiness of the Father. Jesus isn't defeated on the cross! Instead, he rules from the cross, as he carries out the plan of salvation, the light that shines brightest in the darkness of the cross and the grave.

Now the rest of what Jesus is saying to his disciples, and later to us as his followers through the church, can be clear. None of us can do the work that Jesus has been sent to do. We can't save anyone, not those we hold most dear, not even ourselves. We can't take on the work of salvation, neither through the good things we do, nor by the suffering we may face. Only Jesus can do that. So we can't go where Jesus is going: to the cross, to the grave, into death for others. Jesus does that alone, and he does it accomplishing all that needed to be done. His final words from the cross are "It is finished," meaning that the work of salvation has been completed, accomplished, finished once and for all in him.

But now, having been saved by what Jesus did on the cross, we are called by Jesus to live as witnesses to others of what he has done. And what does Jesus say is the way we are to bear witness to him? To live in love for one another. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

This love is both breathtakingly simple, and horribly complicated. Sometimes showing love means curbing one's tongue, swallowing one's anger, refusing to bear grudges and refusing to insist on getting one's own way. At other times showing love means standing one's ground, calling others (and one's self!) to repentance, citing the Law of God, and holding to standards and hard teachings.

Sometimes showing love means treating one another with gentleness and forbearance. Other times showing love means letting others experience the hard consequences of their actions, even rejecting the actions and decisions of others.

How is anyone supposed to know what is the proper way to show the love of Jesus to others in the church, in any particular situation? What does showing love to one another, to fellow disciples in Christ, supposed to be like?

And what if we disagree over this? What if we get it wrong?
Well, we will disagree! And we will get it wrong. That's a fact of sinful human life, whether inside the church or outside of it. Some will recommend the spirit of gentleness at the same time as others will recommend the Spirit of strength and reprimand. And sometimes it might be possible that both are right at the same time. Jesus asks for us to witness to him, and even he recognizes that he himself is a stone that others will at times stumble over. Jesus causes us to stop, and think, and question, in order to be led by the Holy Spirit sent from the Father to keep us in the way of the truth and the life. But Jesus is also the light, revealing always that it is not our love, or our faithfulness, or our getting this love right, that saves. Jesus saves. We follow and point to him in witness.

So Peter, a faithful Jew following the Law that God gave to Moses and his people at Mount Sinai, Peter is told to break that holy law and eat with Gentiles, eat their food, even eat unclean animals, in order to witness to the living Jesus among the Gentiles. Peter is called on the carpet for this, and has to explain that now showing love to those saved by Jesus will mean finding ways to welcome the Gentiles who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And at the end of the Bible, God comes to make his home among human beings, and the holy City of the New Jerusalem comes down to earth. God lives among us! God shows his love finally by dwelling among us forever!

In this time of Easter, in this time of synod assemblies, in this time of congregations looking for ways to live as faithful witnesses to the message of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, we go back to Jesus' words in the Gospel. He is glorified when the time of his betrayal and crucifixion had come. He is glorified when we live trying to show his love to one another, because Jesus has asked us to do so. We try to witness to that love so that others can see that, even when we disagree with one another over matters great or small, we continue to live and act and speak out of that love that Jesus showed to the world, and continues to show to us. His love was willing to go to the cross for the sake of a world that even betrayed and denied and killed him.

In our love for one another, are we willing to go so far? Having been saved by Jesus, even though we do not deserve either his love or his salvation, can we live with one another, showing the love of Jesus to one another? What will our witness be to the world outside of the church, outside of the walls, outside of our circles of agreement and support? What will others see and know from how we treat one another, and them? Will they know we are Christians by our love?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Southern U.S. Hit Hard: How You Can Help

The Southeastern Synod of the ELCA sent out an email alert this afternoon regarding the recent trio of disasters to hit in the past few days. From the ongoing oil spill along the Gulf Coast, to tornados in Mississippi last weekend, to the current flooding situation in Tennessee, especially in Nashville, the South is being hit hard. But Lutheran Disaster Relief is there. Here is information on how to contribute to LDR, as well as the other information contained in this news release. Please keep all those affected by these events in your prayers, and give of your treasure if you are able. Because of my own connection to this area, growing up in Tennessee and with many friends and family members still in this region, I plan to be doing both for some time to come.

Southeastern Synod Disaster News

Photo by John Partipilo (The Tennesean) View from above looking out over First Avenue in downtown Nashville, TN as flood waters continue to rise on Monday morning, May 3, 2010.
Nashville flood

On Saturday and Sunday, May 1 - 2, middle and west Tennessee areas were inundated with water, 10-15 inches of rain in two days. Interstates 24 and 40 were underwater at places both east and west of the city; Opryland Convention Center and the Second Ave area in downtown Nashville were flooded as the Cumberland River escaped its banks. The Bellevue area in West Nashville was particularly hard hit with many people evacuated from their homes in boats.

Area Lutheran churches are all secure but most received some minor water damage. Many church members had to be evacuated from their homes. Holy Trinity is in the Bellevue area. Pastor Gretchen Person was unable to get there yesterday and we have no word yet today. Further west at Rauwood, a Middle Tennessee Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center, major damage was suffered with their log cabin washed away and much damage to other structures.

For up to the minute news, go to http://www.tennessean.com/ or http://www.wsmv.com/index.html.

Donations may be sent to the Synod Office or to Lutheran Services of Tennessee.

ELCA-Southeastern Synod
100 Edgewood Ave., Suite 1600
Atlanta, GA 30303
note "Tennessee Flood" on memo line

Lutheran Services in Tennessee
P.O. Box, 60597,
Nashville, TN, 37206-0597.

Tornadoes in Mississippi
The path of destruction left by severe storms in the southern United States begins in Yazoo City, MS, where a massive tornado touched down last week and traveled for more than 100 miles. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged, and at least 12 people were killed. Affected communities are now beginning the process of recovery, and Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi (LESM) and Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) are both playing vital roles in that work.

Sandra Braasch, Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator with Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi, serves as president of the Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and in that role, she works closely with partners in various faith-based, secular and governmental disaster response organizations.
In coordination with local emergency response personnel, LESM has been involved in assesments on the ground and debris removal, and is currently working to help set up an on-site volunteer camp.

Lutheran Disaster Response has issued an emergency grant of $10,000 to Lutheran Episcopal Services for use in these early days of response. Additional funding, and non-financial resources, may be available as the full scale of need becomes more clear. A press release from the ELCA News Service, which details this grant and shares additional information about the unfolding response in Mississippi, can be found

For information on how to make a gift to support the recovery efforts click here

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

As oil from the sunken Deepwater Horizon platform continues to spread across the Gulf of Mexico, we lift up in prayer those whose communities and livelihoods may be impacted. Volunteers are needed to help with oil cleanup should it come ashore, but those volunteers need to be trained. Interested persons should go towww.oceansprings-ms.gov, to find a link to sign up for training.

Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi (LESM) has offered 2 camps in the area--Mission on the Bay, Bay St. Louis, MS, and Camp Victor, Ocean Springs, MS--as locations to house and train volunteers. More information will be forthcoming.

For the latest information on the containment of the oil spill, visit the Deepwater Horizion Incident Unified Command Website,
www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com .